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The two heads were drawn in like lighting from the rain ; and, as the window was slammed down with a violence that bespoke rage and disappointment, a loud horse-laugh rose upon the wind, and the lover of practical jokes turned on his heel to trudge homeward through the mist, as the good woman inside was going in search of the tinder-box to enable her to hunt up dry chemises, shirts, and nightcaps.
This story was many years afterwards done into verse, after the manner of Coleman the Younger, by a clever student of Harvard Uni. versity ; but all that I remember of the poetry are the two concluding lines.
" And if your name be certainly John Nutt,
Why, then, the devil crack you !" Another of his tricks had very nearly broken a poor fellow's neck; but I verily believe that if it had, it would have been all the same to Mackay, who seemed to think that the whole human race had only been created for him to play pranks upon; or perhaps he quieted his conscience by the belief that the amusement afforded to the many more than counterbalanced the annoyance, and sometimes actual pain, which he dealt out to the few.
Old Ben Russell, or Major Russell, as he was usually styled, was a tall fine looking man, at that time in the prime of life, strong as Her. cules, but with a good deal of the neatness of dress and polished man. ners of a gentleman of the old school. He had for many years owned and edited the Boston Centinel, and prided himself upon two things, - always having his paper out at a certain time, and always having in it the most exact and authentic intelligence. No man in the city could at a word tell you so correctly the position of contending armies in the last European battles, or the points at issue in the latest Continental negotiation. When two armies went into the Netherlands for a summer's work, and as Sergeant Cotten, the Waterloo guide, says, “Ain't it the cockpit of Europe ? no matter where they quarrel, they're sure to come here to fight !" Ben Russell unfurled the map of the country upon the wall of his sanctum as soon as they unfurled their banners in the field; and two pins, one black and the other white, stuck through the map, served to mark the places at which they first entered the country, or opened the campaign. Those pins shifted their positions, and either advanced or retired as the belligerents changed their ground; and when any part of the main force was detached, a pin of a small size was sent to watch its line of march, and declare its operations. The editor by this simple contrivance could not only tell at a glance, by locking at his pins, where the armies were ; but by tracing to holes which the pins had left behind them, could read you off from his maps, at the conclusion of a long war, the history of every campaign.
As this worthy, but somewhat fiery and dignified person, was bend. ing over the last proof of his editorial column, which contained a “ leader” of some importance in his eyes, inasmuch as it gave the latest intelligence from France, and corrected an error which had appeared in the Boston Gazette relative to the movements of General Dumourier, a strange kind of clinking noise was heard at the foot of the long stair. case which led up to the printing-office, at one end of which was Ben's
sanctum, were he was examining the proof aforesaid. Nearer and nearer came the noise, as footsteps appeared to ascend the staircase, clink-clink-clink! Everybody wondered what it was; the devil stopped scraping the ball, for rollers, like Mackintoshes, were not dreamt of then, the compositors leaned on their left feet and left el. bɔws—as compositors will when there is likely to be any sport, and the pressman stood at the bank, with the heap between his arms, and his ear turned towards the door. Ben Russell heard the strange noise upon the stair, and he noticed also the kind of dead calm which had suddenly came over the printing-office, at a moment too of all others, when he felt that every body should be on the alert in order that the “ Centinel” might be got to press. Ben liked neither the noise nor the silence ; and as the clink-clink ! came nearer and nearer, his choler rose with the cause of it, until just as it boiled up to his teeth, and was sure to flow over on somebody, a tall, raw.boned fellow with a stick over his shoulder, on which was slung a motley collection of small iron and wire wares, stalked into the office. To Ben Russell's furious “ What the do you want ?" the itinerant worker in iron and wire deigned not any reply; but threw off his back a load of ladles, screeners, fleshforks, gridirons, and pot.covers, with as much coolness as if he had just entered his own cabin after a profitable day's work. Ben stared at him with a gaze of mingled astonishment and vexation, as though he were a little doubtful whether the fellow's strange beha. viour proceeded from impudence or ignorance; but time was precious. He interrogated him again, when the following dialogue ensued.
" What do you want, fellow ?" “ I'm no fellow. And, if I was, I wants nothing of you." “ You impudent scoundrel! do you know whom you are speaking to?"
“ To be sure I do ; you are Mr. Russell's foreman, and a great man, I dare say, you think yourself when he's out ; but when he's to home, you sing small enough, I warrant! Now you see, I did not come up here without knowing something about you and your ways ; for when your master bargained with me for my notions here, says he, ' Carry them up into my printing-office,' pointing up here, and wait till I come to give you the money. And,' says he, giving me a wink, ' you 'll see my foreman up there,—a tall chap, with his head powdered,
,-a damn. ed impudent fellow; but don't mind him ; he'll very likely give you some sauce, but don't mind him—throw down your load, aud take a chair;" and, as this speech was concluded, the imperturbable intruder sat down in the only spare seat there was in the office, crossed his legs, and begun fumbling in a long, deep pocket for a piece of tobacco.
For two minutes there was silence, not in heaven, but from the queer name given to at least one of its inhabitants, in a place of a different description. Of the pressmen and compositors it may be truly said that struck with amusement at the fellow's effrontery, “ the bold. est held his breath for a time;" while the devil skulked in behind an old staircase, that he might be out of harm's way in the row which he knew was to come.
Like most proud and irritable men, Russell was for a moment thrown off his guard by such an unexpected attack upon the sanctity of his roof, and the dignity he had always maintained in the eyes of his own people. He sprang to his feet ; but for a brief space stood staring at the wire.worker with eyes that, if they had been basilisks,” would certainly have “ struck him dead.” One, two, three bounds, and Ben
had the tall man by the throat, and would have dashed his brains out upon the floor; but Jonathan saw him coming, braced his right foot, firmly advanced his left, and was not to be taken by surprise. The death-struggle between Fitz-James and Roderick Dhu was nothing to it; to and fro, and round and round, they went, sometimes stumbling over those miscellaneons ornaments which are to be found on a printing-office floor, and occasionally oversetting a galley of matter, or kicking their heels through a standing form. The workmen would have interfered ; but their master's blood was up, and, with the chivalric spirit of that profession to which his leisure hours were devoted, he wanted no odds against a single opponent.
The combatants were well matched ; but Ben had a perfect knowledge of the ground, which gave him the advantage : so that, after upsetting the countryman over sundry type-boxes and paper-heaps, with the exact localities of which he was familiar, he succeeded in pushing him through the door, with his back against a stout wooden railing, which protected the landing place from those flights of stairs up
which Jonathan had wound so recently, unconscious of the prospect before him of a much more rapid descent. To pitch each other over the banisters was now the coup.de-main to be achieved. Ben had got the fellow's spine twisted, and his head and shoulders overhanging the staircase ; but Jonathan had hold of his collar with both hands ; and, besides, had his long legs twisted round the small of his back. They had wrestled in this way for five minutes, and the wire-worker's strength was beginning to fail from the twisting of his back-bone over the rail, when just as his legs began to fail, and his grasp to relax, and as Ben was preparing for one mighty effort, by which the victory was to be secured, a horrible horse-laugh-something between a real guffaw and a yell,-struck upon his ear; and looking through the window in front of him, he saw Mungo Mackay at the window of the Ex. change Coffee House opposite, shaking his sides as though there were a whole volcano of fire under his midriff. In an instant Ben under. stood the trick. “ That infernal fellow Mackay? By heavens! I'll cowhide him within an inch of his life!” he exclaimed as he drew Jonathan in from the dangerous position where he hung, and stood him on his feet. But Russell was to good a fellow too bear malice long ; and moreover, he was so rejoiced that he had not committed homicide in ad. dition to making himself ridiculous, that after a few hours his resent. ment passed off, and to the day of his death he was never tired of telling the story.
There is no part of the world where a new preacher, whether new. lights or blue lights, produccs a greater sensation than in Boston,though after he is gone, the people may relapse into their quiet Uni. tarian paths, still they have no objection to wander out of them in search of any novelty in religion ; and if they do not always change their belief with every fresh importation, they at least pay a man the compliment of hearing what he has got to say. There happened to be, during the period of which I am speaking, one of those wandering theological meteors blazing around Boston, and people from every lane and by-way flocked to see it, not with pieces of smoked glass in their fingers, but with ten-cent-pieces and York shillings, to drop into the green box, by way of adding fuel to the flames. So great was the crowd, that the ordinary rules about the quiet possession of pews
which the owners had paid for were entirely broken down ; everybody took
that seat which suited him best, and those who came late sat down in the places left to them by those who had come early. One pleasant Sunday morning Mackay went to the church by times, took his seat in a central pew just under the shadow of the pulpit
, and sat bolt upright, with his arms extended with an apparent degree of unnatural rig. idity down by his sides. He was presently surrounded by half a dozen females, nearly all of whom were strangers to his person,
and in a little time the whole church was full to overflowing.
The psalm was sung, the prayer said, the sermon delivered in the preacher's best style. He dwelt particularly on the requirements of the great precept of brotherly love,-upon the beauty of universal be. nevolence, -on the pleasure which arises, not only from clothing the naked and feeding the hungry, but from attention to the minute and graceful courtesies and charities of life, by which the thorny path is softened and adorned. In the language of the critics in such matters, “ there was not a dry eye in the place :” the appeal had found its way to every heart. All Mackay's immediate neighbours were sensibly affected; he wept with them; the big tears chased each other down his cheeks. But while every one else was busy with their handker. chiefs wiping away the water that the orator, like a second Moses, had by strokes of his eloquence caused to gush from their finty hearts, Mackay held his arms stiff and straight, while half a glass of liquid suffused his face. The dried eyes of the female friends were not slow to observe this ; for in addition to the evident signs of deep feeling which it exhibited, his face was rather a handsome face. He wriggled, fidgeted, looked confused and interesting, but raised no hand, searched for no kerchief, and seemed to be in deep distress.
At length a young widow lady, who sat beside him, remarked that he was ill at ease, and,-heaven bless the female heart ! it always melts at any mysterious sorrow,-after one or two downcast looks and Aut. tering pauses, she said in an under tone,
“ Pray, sir, is there anything the matter with you? You appear to be unwell.”
“ Ah! madam,” breathed Mackay in a whisper, “I am a poor para. lytic, and have lost the use of my arms. Though my tears have flowed in answer to the touching sentiments of the pastor, I have not the pow. er to wipe them away.”
In an instant a fair hand was thrust into a reticule, and a white handkerchief, scented with otto of roses, was applied to Mackay's eyes; the fair Samaritan, seeming to rejoice in this first opportunity of prac. tising what had been so recently preached, appeared to polish them with right good will. When she had done, M. looked unutterable ob. ligations, but whispered that she would increase them a thousand fold if she would, as it wanted it very much, condescend to wipe his nose, The novelty of the request was thought nothing of; the widow was proud of the promptitude she had displayed in succouring the distressed; and to a person who has done you one kind action, the second seems always easy.
Her white hand and whiter handkerchief were raised to Mackay's cutwater ; but the moment that it was completely enveloped in the folds of the cambric, he gave such a sneeze as made the whole church ring--it was, in fact, more like a neigh. The minister paused in giving out the hymn; the deacons put on their spectacles to see what could be the matter; and in an instant every eye was turned upon Mackay and the fair Samaritan, the latter of whom, being so intent
upon her object, or so confounded by the general notoriety she had acquired, still convulsively grasped the nose.
There were hundreds of persons in that church who knew Mackay and his propensities well, and a single glance was sufficient to convince them that a successful hoax had been played off for their amusement. A general titter now ran round the place,—“nods and becks, and wreathed smiles' were the order of the day. Men held down their heads, and laughed outright; and the ladies had to stuff the scented cambric into their mouths, which had been so recently applied to the sparkling founts above.
At length something like order was restored, the hymn sung, and the blessing given, amidst stified noises of various kinds, when the congregation rose to depart. The widow, up to this point, feeling strong in the consciousness of having performed a virtuous action upon a good-look. ing face, heeded not the gaze of the curious nor the smiles of the mirthful; but what was her astonishment when Mackay rose from his seat, lifted up one of his paralytic hands, and took his hat from a peg above his head, and with the other began searching his coat-pocket for
his gloves! Though the unkindest cut of all was yet to come ; for Mackay having drawn them on, and opened the pew.door, turned, and bowing to his fair friend, put this question in a tone the most insinuating, but still loud enough for fifty people to hear,
“ Is it not, madam, a much greater pleasure to operate upon a finelooking Roman nose like mine, than upon such a queer little snub as you have ?
These are random illustrations of a very original character; and if they are relished by those for whose amusement they are intended, I may find a leisure hour to string together a few more.
SONG OF THE SUN.
In the glorious East
For I drink the rosy cloud!
To lift from earth its shroud.
To give each wandering ray;
To strengthen me on my way.
The course I love to take !
Through its envious gloom I break.
Ev'ry parting glance I bend,
Of my toilsome journey's end.