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to hazard. There is a chance in all things. No man can so calculate odds in the affairs of life as to ensure a certainty. The screws and linchpins necessary to our purpose
have not the inflexibility of fate; yet they must be trusted at some degree of risk. Our candle may be put out by a puff of wind on the stair, let it be sheltered ever so carefully. Betsy is a good cook, yet beefsteaks have been productive of strangulation. Does it then follow from this that we are never to go to bed, except in the dark, and to abstain from breaking our fast until dinner is announced ?
One may pause and reflect too much. There must be action, conclusion, result, or we are a failure, to all intents and purposes—a self-confessed failure-defunct from the beginning. And such was the case with Peleg W. Ponder, who never arrived at a conclusion, or contrived to reach a result. Peleg is always "stumped”—he “don't know what to think”—he “can't tell what to say”—an unfinished gentleman, with a mind like a dusty garret, full, as it were, of rickety furniture, yet nothing serviceable-broken-backed chairs—three-legged tables-pitchers without handles cracked decanters and fractured looking-glasses -- that museum of mutilations in which housewifery rejoices, under the vague but never realised hope that these things may eventually “come in play." Peleg's opinions lie about the workshop of his brains, in every stage of progress but the last-chips, sticks, and sawdust enough, but no article ready to send home.
Should you meet Peleg in the street with “Good morning, Peleg—how do you find yourself to-day?”
“Well—I don't know exactly—I'm pretty—no, not very -pray, how do you do yourself?”
Now if a man does not know exactly, or nearly, how he is after being up for several hours, and having had abundant time to investigate the circumstances of his case, it is useless to propound questions of opinion to such an
individual. It is useless to attempt it with Peleg. do you do?" puzzles him—he is fearful of being too rash, and of making a reply which might not be fully justified by after-reflection. His head may be about to ache, and he has other suspicious feelings.
“People are always asking me how I do, and more than half the time I can't tell. There's a good many different sorts of ways of feeling betwixt and between .Very sick, I thank you,' and 'Half-dead, I'm obliged to you;' and people won't stop to hear you explain the matter. They want to know right smack, when you don't know right smack yourself. Sometimes you feel things a-coming, and just after you feel things a-going. And nobody's exactly prime all the while. I ain't, anyhow—I'm kinder so just now, and I'm sorter t’other way just after. Then, some people tell you that you look very well, when you don't feel very well—how then ? »
At table Peleg is not exactly sure what he will take; and sits looking slowly up and down the board, deliberating what he would like, until the rest of the company have finished their repast, there being often nothing left which suits Peleg's hesitating appetite.
Peleg has never married—not that he is averse to the connubial state-on the contrary, he has a large share of the susceptibilities, and is always partially in love. But female beauty is so various. At one time Peleg is inclined to believe that perfection lies in queenly dignity—the majesty of an empress fills his dreams; and he looks down with disdain on little people. He calls them “squabs” in derogation. But anon, in a more domestic mood, he thinks of fireside happiness and quiet bliss, declining from the epic poetry of loveliness to the household wife, who might be disposed to bring him his slippers, and to darn the hole in his elbow. When in the tragic vein he fancies a brunette; and when the sunshine is on his soul, blue
eyes are at a premium. Should woman possess the slight-, ness of a sylph, or should her charms be of the more solid architecture? Ought her countenance to beam in smiles, or will habitual pensiveness be the more interesting? Is sparkling brilliancy to be preferred to gentle sweetness ?
“If there wasn't so many of them, I shouldn't be so bothered," said Peleg; “or if they all looked alike, a man couldn't help himself. But yesterday I wanted this one; to-day, I want that one; and to-morrow I'll want t'other one; and how can I tell, if I should get this, or that, or t'other, that it wouldn't soon be somebody else that I really wanted ? That's the difficulty. It always happens so with
When the lady's most courted, and thinks I ought to speak out, then I begin to be skeered, for fear I've made a mistake, and have been thinking I loved her, when I didn't. Maybe it's not the right one—maybe she won't suit—maybe I might do better--maybe I had better not venture at all. I wish there wasn't so many 'maybe's' about everything, especially in such affairs. I've got at least a dozen unfinished courtships on hand already."
But all this happened a long time ago; and Peleg has gradually lost sight of his fancy for making an addition to his household. Not that he has concluded, even yet, to remain a bachelor. He would be alarmed at the bare mention of such an idea. He could not consent to be shelved in that decisive manner. But he has subsided from active “looking around” in pursuit of his object, into that calm, irresponsible submissiveness, characteristic of the somewhat elderly bachelor, which waits until she may chance to present herself spontaneously, and "come along" of her own accord. “Some day--some day," says Peleg; “it will happen some day or other. What's the use of being in a hurry?”
Peleg W. Ponder's great object is now ambition. His personal affairs are somewhat embarrassed by his lack of enterprise, and he hankers greatly for an office. But which side to join ? Ay, there's the rub! Who will purvey the loaf and fish? for whom shall Peleg shout ?
Behold him as he puzzles over the returns of the State elections, labouring in vain to satisfy his mind as to the result of the presidential contest. Stupefied by figuresperplexed by contradictory statements—bothered by the general hurrah; what can Peleg do?
“Who's going to win? That's all I want to know,” exclaims the vexed Peleg. “I don't want to waste my time a-blowing out for the wrong person, and never get a thank'e. What's the use of that? There's Simpkins-says I, Simpkins, says I, which is the party that can't be beat? And Simpkins turns up his nose and tells me every fool knows that—it's his side-so I hurrah for Simpkins' side as hard as I can. But then comes Timpkins—Timpkins' side is t'other side from Simpkins' side—and Timpkins offers to bet me three levies that his side is the side that can't be beat. Hurrah! says I, for Timpkins' side and then I can't tell which side.”
As for the newspapers, that's worse still. They not only crow all round, but they cipher it out so clear that both sides must win, if there's any truth in the ciphering-book; which there isn't about election time. What's to be done? I've tried going to all the meetings—I've hurrahed for everybody—I've been in all the processions, and I sit a little while every evening in all sorts of headquarters. I've got one kind of documents in one pocket, and t’other kind of documents in t'other pocket; and as I go home at night I sing one sort of song as loud as I can bawl half of the way, and try another sort of song the rest of the way, just to split the difference and show my impartiality. If I only had two notes—a couple of 'em-how nice it would be!
“But the best thing that can be done now, I guess, as my character is established both ways, is to turn in quietly
till the row is all over. Nobody will miss me when they are all so busy; and afterwards, when we know all about it, just look for Peleg W. Ponder as he comes down the street, shaking people by the hand, and saying how we have used
I can't say so now, or I would, for I am not perfectly sure yet which is 'we' or which is 'them.' Time enough when the election is over.”
It will thus be seen that Ponder is a remarkable person. Peter Schlemihl lost his shadow and became memorably unhappy in consequence; but what was his misfortune when compared with that of the man who has no side? What are shadows if weighed against sides ? And Peleg is almost afraid that he never will be able to get a side, so unlucky has he been heretofore. He begins to dread that both sides may be defeated; and then, let us ask, what is to become of him? Must he stand aside ?
Joseph C. Neal.
I'd hearn tell of 'em and I'd seen 'em, with their broad brim'd hats and long wastid coats; but I'd never cum into immejit contack with 'em and I'd sot 'em down as lackin intelleck, as I'd never seen 'em to my Show—leastways, if they cum they was disgised in white peple’s close, so I didn't know 'em.
But in the Spring of 18-- I got swampt in the exterior of New York State, one dark and stormy night, when the winds Blue pityusly, and I was forced to tie up with the Shakers.
I was toilin threw the mud, when in the dim vister of the futer I obsarved the gleams of a taller candle. Tiein a hornet's nest to my off hoss's tail to kinder encourage him, I soon reached the place. I knockt at the door, which it