Page images
PDF
EPUB

ver the analogy of their situations. It is a question, which I leave to casuists and physiologists to determine, whether or not the living upon these small deer had any agency in producing that spare and skinny habit of body for which Mr. S. was so remarkable. For my own part, I am inclined to the opinion that it had.

At what period he migrated to New-York is uncertain, as is also his mode of life and occupation on his arrival. My acquaintance with him commenced about the beginning of the present century, he occupying the lower story, that is, the cellar, of a house in the neighbourhood in which I resided. Harry, at this time, appeared in the character of an artist, that is to say, a painter of blinds, window shutters, hencoops, wheel barrows, and other articles that required but little delicacy of touch, or refinement of taste, in the execution. Our artist always worked * sub Jove frigido," which means, out in the street, and the cellar door was his easel. Like Sir Joshua Reynolds he delighted in simplicity: his only colour was a bright grass green, of which he used to be so profuse, that, in a little time, not only the pavement, but also the houses and fences of his neighbours assumed a verdant hue, quite beautiful to behold. Whether Harry would ever have attained the rank of member of the Academy of Fine Arts, is problematical. A sudden stop was put to his career by a violent fit of the painter's colic, occasioned by the fumes of the lead in his paint. I shall never forget the rueful countenance, the hor. rible contortions of body, and the awful bellowings of poor Harry on this occasion. He recovered from the colic, but he had literally got his belly-full of painting. So, shutting up his shop, and leaving his pots and brushes for the rent, be bid farewell to the palette and mall stick.

Harry now became a guardian of the lives and property of his fellow citizens, or, in other words, a watchman. Though by no means a powerful man, his watchfulness and intrepidity supplied the place of physical force, and he soon became noted as one of the most active and courageous, and least somnolent, of these nocturnal functionaries. But it was our hero's fate never to exercise one vocation long. One dark night, some wicked wights of the Tom and Jerry school, who were out on a lark, set upon our poor Charlie, surprised him unawares, took from him his club, and, after treating him with great rudeness, left him shut up in a stage coach, into which they had decoyed him. His pride could not brook this injury; so, the next morning, he repaired to the City Hall, and, with tears in his eyes, resigned his office and bade adieu to the cares of public life.

2

[ocr errors]

The next step in the eventful history of our "hero was on ship board, in the character of sailor. With the concurrence of some kind friends, to whom Harry had now become somewhat of a burden, and who fitted him out, with the expectation of never more seeing his face, he embarked for Gibraltar. Those only who have been at sea, can fully appreciate the wicked wit and waggery of seamen. Harry's simplicity of manners, unsuspecting nature, and uncouth appearance, afforded a fine butt for the coarse raillery and practical jokes of these sons of Neptune. Besides sewing him up in a sheep's skin, and tarring and feathering him, when tipsey, under pretence that they were crossing the line, the ceremony of Neptune's visit was gone through, and the process of shaving was performed upon our neophyte of the ocean, in a very severe and barbarous manner.

It was during his residence at Gibraltar, that Harry acquired that skill and experience, in the treatment of yellow fever, which rendered his services so useful in our city during the last visitation of disease, and which, had he lived, would no doubt have entitled him to the birth of Health Officer, or Resident Physician at the least."

Slender did not sojourn long in Spain, but, to the great surprise and mortification of his friends, returned to New-York sound in wind and body, the same old two and six-pence” that he departed. On this voyage, besides picking up all the strange oaths and curious expressions of the seamen, Harry unfortunately formed a strong attachment to the bottle, which continued to grow upon him through after life, and, besides shortening his days, tended in a great measure to weaken the esteem and affection, with which his friends had before regarded him.

The salt water did not agree with our most bucolical juvenal. He had now become heartily sick of a sea life, and often and deeply did he sigh for the green fields, the rugged mountains, and tangled glades of his native Highlands.

But a gleam of good fortune now seemed to irradiate the darkened horizon of our wanderer. An old lady, to whom Harry had somehow or other endeared himself, by his fasci. nating manners, departed this life, and, amongst other bequests, left him the fee simple of a small farm in the western part of the state. Harry immediately betook himself on the wings of the morning, that is, as fast as the steam-boat and post coach could carry him, to his new home; and fondly hoped, in the retirement of rural life, to spend the remainder of his days in peace and quietness. The farm was, indeed, rather a wild con

[ocr errors]

cern, encumbered with rocks and stumps in abundance. But nothing could daunt our indefatigable youth. He rose early and worked hard all day. The trees of the forest were felled ; stone fences were raised; a log house erected; and soon the desert, like a coy maiden who is only to be won by long and constant wooing, smiled and bloomed around him.

For a time every thing went on swimmingly with our backwoodsman. From ploughing the deep, he soon grew accustomed to turning a furrow; and became as expert at wielding a flail or a scythe, as he had before been at handling a marlingspike. He also becarne much skilled in the art of fattening cattle, the secret of which he had learnt abroad; and, though he could not add an ounce of fat to his own ribs, actually raised a small hog to such a degree of obesity, that it took the premium of a gilded cup, in the shape of an acorn, at a cattle show in the neighbourhood. Harry received much praise on this occasion; and, although an envious old grazier tried to make the people believe that it was only the contrast of Mr. Slender's spare figure, alongside the hog, that made it appear so fat, he was unanimously voted the prize by the judges.

Well would it have been, if our agriculturist could always have brought his pigs to as fine a market. But he was the foot-ball of Fortune, and destined never to remain long in the same place, or move long in the same sphere. The star of his nativity was a comet, and his wild and wayward fate doomed him to continual change and aberration. The causes which produced his vicissitudes in life may appear slight and trivial; yet causes, apparently as trifling, have shaken thrones and changed the destinies of empires.

The reader has already seen, how an affection of the stomach prevented our hero's eminence as an artist. He has now to learn how an affection of the heart put a sudden stop to his agricultural pursuits. Yes, it was love! Love, against whose arrows no heart, however guarded, no mortal frame, however meager, is proof.

“ Love, who erects his throne, And builds his temple, e'en on skin and bone.” That wicked urchin, Dan Cupid, who is continually perplexing and harassing poor mortals by his sportive pranks, bent his bow, and transfixed the heart of our tender youth with one of his keenest darts. And a woman, that lost Mark Anthony the world, lost for Harry Slender his farm, his log-house, his little hog, and well nigh his five blessed wits.

About a mile from the habitation of our hero, dwelt the rich Mynheer Van Bummel. Heaven had blessed him with an

a

only daughter ; and, if ever the Dutch Venus appeared upon earth in mortal guise, it was in the person of the fair Jemima. Eyes, bright as the orient glances of morn; cheeks of the roses

] deepest hues; lips vermeil-tinctured-a form, rich and luxuriant but hold, vain pen : thou canst no more describe the beauties of Jemima Van Bummel, than could poor Harry, had he tried to daub her likeness with his solitary green colour. She was, as Mr. Wordsworth says somewhere, -- a phantom of delight;" , but a fat phantom was she. Far and wide rang the country with the praises of the fair one, and many a vow was made, and many a sigh breathed, at the shrine of her beauty. Among the herd of stricken deer, that were pierced by her charms, was our hero. It was not in the power of flesh and blood to resist the earnest, inquisitive, half bashful glance that Jemima threw upon Flarry one morning as he chanced to meet her near her father's. It was like the electric shock, and our Cymon stood gaping after this beau ideal of fat and fairness, in mute amazement.-Like poor Tasso, bis doom was fixed.

“ Because to look and not desire to marry

Was more or less than mortal, or than Harry." But alas ! for Master Slender; the “sweet Ann Page” who had thus crossed his vision, proved as flinty and obdurate as did she of yore. Riches or beauty, singly, will make a woman proud and disdainful enough in all conscience; but conjoined -Lucifer himself is not more haughty. Not content with simply refusing his awkward, but well-meant, attention, the cruel fair one even went so far as to turn the person of her sighing suitor into ridicule ; comparing him to a spawned shad, a starved mudpoke, a bean pole with a shirt on it, and other similies, with which young ladies of exuberant fancy delight to load poor lovers, that are so unfortunate as not to find favour in

The effect this cruel treatment had upon the spirits of our rejected youth, was astonishing. He was so spare already, that to pine away was next to an impossibility. But grief was preying upon his vitals. He grew listless, melancholy and aweary of the sun; and would lay for hours and days together, under the shade of some lonely willow, chewing a quid of tobacco, and indulging his sad reflections. Sometimes he would walk in a rueful manner, up and down the side of the horse pond, looking as if he was going to walk into it and drown himself, every moment. But most frequently would he walk into the ale-house of the neighbouring village, and, for a while, drown his sorrow in potent libations to Bacchus.

their eyes.

As might be expected, his farm soon became neglected, Wild weeds and briers overspread his once thriving garden, Though the heavens smiled, and, in their season, the gentle rains descended, his fields yielded no crops, because no seed had been sown. Every thing soon went to rack and manger; bis fences were broken down ; his implements of husbandry stolen ; the barn was burnt by Harry's smoking a segar one night in the hay-loft, in a fit of abstraction, after coming from the tavern; and his hogs, from want of feeding, grew almost as lean as their master. This state of things could not last. Ruin soon came upon him, like a roaring lion, and duns and sheriffs with their fi. fa's. and ca. sa's. soon stripped poor Harry of his house and farm, his cattle, his golden acorn, and his little hog; and left him once more little better than an outcast upon the face of creation.

About this time, the fair object of his affections, and cause of his ruin, married a fat gentleman in the neighbourhood. Slender, on hearing this, seemed to awake from the dream in which he had so long been entranced, and rage and scorn took the place of love in his bosom. But rural objects, associated as they were with his distresses, had lost their charms for our unfortunate youth. So, with a heart swelling with honest pride and indignation, he packed up his duds, put his best foot foresmost, and, one sultry morning, just as St. Paul's clock struck twelve, was seen, with his bundle on bis back, slowly pacing down Broadway, with the air of a Spanish Hidalgo.

And now, behold our youth once more in the metropolis of the great state, the market for merit, and the home of genius, where talent of every kind always bas full scope for its exhibition, where quackery is always sure of being detected, and where honest industry never fails of meeting its reward.

But no man can grow rich, by sitting with his hands in his breeches' pockets; and even modest merit must make some exertion, before it can be brought forth from its lurking place, and duly appreciated. Harry found that the streets were not paved with gold, or the houses tiled with pancakes, and that something must be done, to prevent the disagreeable necessity of starvation. So, having procured, by some means or other, an old wheelbarrow, he became a vehicular transporter of baggage, or, in other words, a porter; an occupation which, with few intermissions, he continued until his death. As Harry wore the badge of his profession, and had been regularly li. censed to fetch and carry, nothing so much excited his indignation as to see interlopers in the business. It was in a praiseworthy assertion of his prerogative, as he was endeavouring to

« PreviousContinue »