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down on one of those small calthrops our grandfathers used to sow round in the grass when there were Indians about,iron stars, each ray a rusty thorn an inch and a half long,– stick through mocassins into feet,-cripple 'em on the spot, and give 'em lock-jaw in a day or two.
At the same time he let off one of those big words which lie at the bottom of the best man's vocabulary, but perhaps never turn up in his life,-just as every man's hair may stand on end, but in most men it never does. After he had got calm, he pulled out a sheet or two of manuscript, together with a smaller scrap, on which, as he said, he had just been writing an introduction or prelude to the main performance. A certain suspicion had come into my mind that the Professor was not quite right, which was confirmed by the way he talked; but I let him begin.
This is the way he read it:
Here I thought it necessary to interpose. “Professor," I said, “you are inebriated. The style of what you call your ‘Prelude' shows that it was written under cerebral excitement. Your articulation is confused. You have told me three times in succession, in exactly the same words, that I was the only true friend you had in the world that you would unbutton your heart to.
You smell distinctly and decidedly of spirits.” I spoke and paused; tender but firm.
Two large tears orbed themselves beneath the Professor's lids--in obedience to the principles of gravitation celebrated in that delicious bit of bladdery bathos, “The very law that moulds a tear,” with which the Edinburgh Review attempted to put down Master George Gordon when that young man was foolishly trying to make himself conspicuous. One of these tears peeped over the edge of the lid until it lost its balance,-slid an inch and waited for reinforcements, -swelled again,-rolled down a little further,—stopped, moved on,—and at last fell on the back of the Professor's hand. He held it up for me to look at, and lifted his eyes, brimful, till they met mine.
I couldn't stand it, I always break down when folks cry in my face,-so I hugged him, and said he was a dear old boy, and asked him kindly what was the matter with him, and what made him smell so dreadfully strong of spirits. Upset his alcohol lamp,-he said,—and spilt the alcohol on his legs. That was it. But what had he been doing to get his head into such a state--had he really committed an excess? What was the matter? Then it came out that he had been taking chloroform to have a tooth out, which had left him in a very queer state, in which he had written the
Prelude” given above, and under the influence of which he evidently was still.
Oliver Wendell Holmes.
OUR TRAVELLED PARSON.
FOR twenty years and over, our good parson had been
toiling, To chip the bad meat from our hearts, and keep the good
from spoiling; But suddenly he wilted down, and went to looking sickly, And the doctor said that something must be put up for
him quickly. So we kind o'clubbed together, each according to his
notion, And bought a circular ticket, in the lands across the ocean; Wrapped some pocket-money in it—what we thought
would easy do himAnd appointed me committee-man, to go and take it to
him. I found him in his study, looking rather worse than ever ; And told him 'twas decided that his flock and he should
Then his eyes grew big with wonder, and it seemed almost
to blind 'em, And some tears looked out o'window, with some others
close behind 'em ! But I handed him the ticket, with a little bow of deference, And he studied quite a little ere he got the proper reference, And then the tears that waited-great unmanageable
creaturesLet themselves quite out o'window, and came climbing
down his features.
I wish you could ha’ seen him when he came back, fresh
and glowing, His clothes all worn and seedy, and his face all fat and
I wish you could ha' heard him, when he prayed for us
who sent him, Paying back with compound intrest every dollar that we'd
lent him! 'Twas a feast to true believers—'twas a blight on contradic
tionTo hear one just from Calvary talk about the crucifixion; 'Twas a damper on those fellows who pretended they could
doubt it, To have a man who'd been there stand and tell 'em all
about it! Why every foot of Scripture, whose location used to
stump us, Was now regularly laid out with the different points o' com
pass; When he undertook a subject, in what nat'ral lines he'd
draw it! He would paint it out so honest that it seemed as if you
And the way he went for Europe ! oh, the way he scampered
through it! Not a mountain but he clim' it—not a city but he knew it; There wasn't any subject to explain, in all creation, But he could go to Europe, and bring back an illustration ! So we crowded out to hear him, quite instructed and
delighted; 'Twas a picture-show, a lecture, and a sermon-all united; And my wife would rub her glasses, and serenely pet her
Testment, And whisper, “That ere ticket was a splendid good invest
Now, after six months' travel, we was most of us all ready To settle down a little, so's to live more staid and steady;