Wit and Humor of America, The Vol 02



Very dry, indeed, is the drive from Blackberry to Squash Point,—dry even for New Jersey; and when you remember that it's fifty miles between the two towns, its division into five drinks seems very natural. When you are packed, three on one narrow seat, in a Jersey stage, it is necessary.

A Jersey stage! It is not on record, but when Dante winds up his Tenth "Canter" into the Inferno with—

Each, as his back was laden, came indeed
Or more or less contracted; and it seemed
As he who showed most patience in his look,
Wailing, exclaimed, "I can endure no more!"

the conclusion that he alluded to a crowded Jersey stage-load is irresistible. A man with long legs, on a back seat, in one of these vehicles, suffers like a snipe shut up in a snuff-box. For this reason, the long-legged man should sit on the front seat with the driver; there, like the hen-turkey who tried to sit on a hundred eggs, he can "spread himself." The writer sat alongside the driver one morning, just at break of day, as the stage drove out of Blackberry: he was a through passenger to Squash Point. It was a very cold morning. In order to break the ice for a conversation, he praised the fine points of an off horse. The driver thawed:

"Ya-as; she's a goot hoss, und I knows how to trive him!" It was evidently a case of mixed breed.

"Where is Wood, who used to drive this stage?"

"He be's lait up mit ter rummatiz sence yesterweek, und I trives for him. So—" I went on reading a newspaper: a fellow-passenger, on a back seat, not having the fear of murdered English on his hands, coaxed the Dutch driver into a long conversation, much to the delight of a very pretty Jersey-blue belle, who laughed so merrily that it was contagious; and in a few minutes, from being like unto a conventicle, we were all as wide awake as one of Christy's audiences. By sunrise we were in excellent spirits, up to all sorts of fun; and when, a little later on, our stage stopped at the first watering-place, the driver found himself the center of a group of treaters to the distilled "juice of apples." It is just as easy to say "apple-jack," and be done with it; but the writer, being very anxious to form a style, cribs from all quarters. The so oft-repeated expression "juice of the grape" has been for a long time on his hands, and, wishing to work it up, he would have done it in this case, only he fears the skepticism of his readers. By courtesy, they may wink at the poetical license of a reporter of a public dinner who calls turnip-juice and painted whisky "juice of the grape," but they would not allow the existence, for one minute, of such application to the liquors of a Jersey tavern. It's out of place.

"Here's a package to leave at Mr. Scudder's, the third house on the left-hand side after you get into Jericho. What do you charge?" asked a man who seemed to know the driver.

"Pout a leffy," answered he. Receiving the silver, he gathered up the reins, and put the square package in the stage-box. Just as he started the horses, he leaned his head out of the stage, and, looking back to the man who gave him the package, shouted out the question:

"Ter fird haus on ter lef hant out of Yeriko?" The man didn't hear him, but the driver was satisfied. On we went at a pretty good rate, considering how heavy the roads were. Another tavern, more watering, more apple-jack. Another long stretch of sand, and we were coming into Jericho.

"Anypotty know ter Miss Scutter haus?" asked the driver, bracing his feet on the mail-bag which lay in front of him, and screwing his head round so as to face in. There seemed to be a consultation going on inside the stage.

"I don't know nobody o' that name in Jericho. Do you, Lishe?" asked a weather-beaten-looking man, who evidently "went by water," of another one who apparently went the same way.

"There wos ole Square Gow's da'ter, she marri'd a Scudder; moved up here some two years back. Come to think on't, guess she lives nigher to Glass-house," answered Lishe.

The driver, finding he could get no light out of the passengers, seeing a tall, raw-boned woman washing some clothes in front of a house, and who flew out of sight as the stage flew in, handed me the reins as he jumped from his seat and chased the fugitive, hallooing,—

"I'fe got der small pox, I'fe got der—" Here his voice was lost as he dashed into the open door of the house. But in a minute he reappeared, followed by a broom with an enraged woman annexed, and a loud voice shouting out,—

"You git out of this! Clear yourself, quicker! I ain't goin' to have you diseasin' honest folks, ef you have got the smallpox."

"I dells you I'fe got der small pox. Ton't you versteh? der SMALL POX!" This time he shouted it out in capital letters!

"Clear out! I'll call the men-folks ef you don't clear;" and at once she shouted, in a tip-top voice, "Ike, you Ike, where air you?"

Ike made his appearance on the full run.

"W-w-what's the matter, mother?"—Miss Scudder his mother! I should have been shocked, as I was on my first visit to New Jersey, if I had not had a key to this. "That is a very pretty girl," I said on that occasion to a Jersey-man; "who is she?"—"She's old Miss Perrine's da'ter," was the reply. I looked at the innocent victim of man's criminal conduct with commiseration. "What a pity!" I remarked.

"Not such a very great pity," said Jersey, eying me very severely. "I reckon old man Perrine's got as big a cedar-swamp as you, or I either, would like to own."

"Her grandfather you speak of?"

"No, I don't: I'm talking 'bout her father,—he that married Abe Simm's da'ter and got a power of land by it; and that gal, their da'ter, one of these days will step right into them swamps."

"Oh," I replied, "Mrs. Perrine's daughter," accenting the "Missis!"

"Mussus or Miss, it's all the same in Jersey," he answered.

Knowing this, Ike's appeal was intelligible. To proceed with our story, the driver, very angry by this time, shouted,—

"I dells you oonst more for der last dime. I'fe got der small pox! unt Mishter Ellis he gifs me a leffy to gif der small pox to Miss Scutter; unt if dat vrow is Miss Scutter, I bromised to gif her ter small pox."

It was Miss Scudder, and I explained to her that it was a small box he had for her. The affair was soon settled as regarded its delivery, but not as regards the laughter and shouts of the occupants of the old stage-coach as we rolled away from Jericho. The driver joined in, although he had no earthly idea as to its cause, and added not a little to it by saying, in a triumphant tone of voice,—

"I vos pound to gif ter olt voomans ter small pox!"

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