Produced by Cornell University, Joshua Hutchinson, Sandra
Brown and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
Produced by Cornell University, Joshua Hutchinson, Sandra
Punchinello, Vol. 1, No. 13, June 25, 1870
SATURDAY, JUNE 25, 1870.
PUBLISHED BY THE
PUNCHINELLO PUBLISHING COMPANY,
83 NASSAU STREET, NEW YORK.
THE MYSTERY OF MR. E. DROOD.
BY ORPHEUS C. KERR.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN AND FRIEND.
JOHN BUMSTEAD, on his way home along the unsteady turnpike—upon which he is sure there will be a dreadful accident some day, for want of railings—is suddenly brought to an unsettled pause in his career by the spectacle of Old Mortarity leaning against the low fence of the pauper burial-ground, with a shapeless boy throwing stones at him in the moonlight. The stones seem never to hit the venerable JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, and at each miss the spry monkey of the moonlight sings “Sold again,” and casts another missile still further from the mark. One of these goes violently to the nose of Mr. BUMSTEAD, who, after a momentary enjoyment of the evening fireworks thus lighted off, makes a wrathful rush at the playful child, and lifts him from the ground by his ragged collar, like a diminished suit of Mr. GREELEY’S customary habiliments.
“Miserable snipe,” demands BUMSTEAD, eyeing his trophy gloomily, and giving him a turn or two as though he were a mackerel under inspection, “what are you doing to that gooroleman?”
“Oh, come now!” says the lad, sparring at him in the air, “you just lemme be, or I’ll fetch you a wipe in the jaw. I ain’t doing nothink; and he’s werry good to me, he is.”
Mr. BUMSTEAD drops the presumptuous viper, but immediately seizes him by an ear and leads him to MCLAUGHLIN, whom he asks: “Do you know this insect?”
“SMALLEY,” says MCLAUGHLIN, with a nod.
“Is that the name of the sardine?”
“Blagyerboots,” adds MCLAUGHLIN.
“Shine ’em up, red hot,” explains the boy. “I’m one of them fellers.” Here he breaks away and hops out again into the road, singing:
”Áina, maina, mona, Mike,
Bassalona, bona, strike!
Hay, way, crown, rack,
Hallico, ballico, we—wo—wack!”
—which he evidently intends as a kind of Hitalian; for, simultaneously, he aims a stone at JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, grazes Mr. BUMSTEAD’S whiskers instead, and in another instant a sound of breaking glass is heard in the distance.
“Peace, young scorpion!” says Mr. BUMSTEAD, with a commanding gesture. “JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, let me see you home. The road is too unsteady to-night for an old man like you. Let me see you home, far as my house, at least.”
“Thank you, sir, I’d make better time alone. When you came up, sir, Old Mortarity was meditating on this bone-farm,” says Mr. MCLAUGHLIN, pointing with a trowel, which he had drawn from his pocket, into the pauper burial-ground. “He was thinking of the many laid here when the Alms-House over yonder used to be open as a Alms-House. I’ve patched up all these graves, as well as them in the Ritual churchyard, and know ’em all, sir. Over there, Editor of Country Journal; next, Stockholder in Erie; next, Gentleman who Undertook to be Guided in His Agriculture by Mr. GREELEY’S ‘What I Know about Farming;’ next, Original Projector of American Punch; next, Proprietor of Rural Newspaper; next, another Projector of American Punch—indeed, all the rest of that row is American Punches; next, Conductor of Rustic Daily; next, Manager of Italian Opera; next, Stockholder in Morris and Essex; next, American Novelist; next, Husband of Literary Woman; next, Pastor of Southern Church; next, Conductor of Provincial Press.—I know ’em ALL sir,” says Old Mortarity, with exquisite pathos, “and if a flower could spring up for every tear a friendless old man has dropped upon their neglected graves, you couldn’t see the wooden head-boards for the roses.”
“Tharsverytrue,” says Mr. BUMSTEAD, much affected—”Not see ’em for your noses—beaut’ful idea! You’re a gooroleman, sir. Here comes SMALLEY again.”
“I ain’t doing nothink, and you’re all the time wanting me to move on, and he’s werry good to me, he is,” whimpers SMALLEY, throwing a stone at Mr. BUMSTEAD and hitting Old Mortarity.
“Didn’t I tell you to always aim at me?” cries the latter, angrily rubbing the place. “Don’t I give you a penny a night to aim right at me?”
“I only chucked once at him,” says the youth, penitently.
“You see, Mr. BUMSTEAD,” explains JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, “I give him an Object in life. I am that Object, and it pays me. If you’ve ever noticed these boys, sir, they never hit what they aim at. If they throw at a pigeon or a tree, the stone goes through a garret window. If they throw at a dog, it hits some passer-by on the leg. If they throw at each other, it takes you in the back as you’re turnin’ a corner. I used to be getting hit all over every night from SMALLEY’S aiming at dogs, and pigeons, and boys like himself; but now I hire him to aim at me, exclusively, and I’m all safe.—There he goes, now, misses me, and breaks another winder.”
“Here, SMALLEY,” says Mr. BUMSTEAD, as another stone, aimed at MCLAUGHLIN, strikes himself, “take this other penny, and aim at both of us.”
Thus perfectly protected from painful contusion, although the air continues full of stones, Mr. BUMSTEAD takes JOHN MCLAUGHLIN’S arm, as they move onward, to protect the old man from harm, and is so careful to pick out the choice parts of the road for him that their progress is digressive in the extreme.
“I have heard,” says Mr. BUMSTEAD, “that at one end of the pauper burial-ground there still remains the cellar of a former chapel to the Alms-House, and that you have broken through into it, and got a stepladder to go down. Isthashso?”
“Yes; and there’s coffins down there.”
“Yours is a hic-stremely strange life, JOHN MCLAUGHLIN.”
“It’s certainly a very damp one,” says MCLAUGHLIN, silently urging his strange companion to support a little more of his own weight in walking. “But it has its science. Over in the Ritualistic burial-yard, I tap the wall of a vault with my trowel-handle, and if the sound is hollow I say to myself: ‘Not full yet.’ Say it’s the First of May, and I tap a coffin, and don’t hear anything more in it, I say: ‘Either you’re not a woman in there, or, if you are, you never kept house.’—Because, you see, if it was a woman that ever kept house, it would take but the least thing in the world to make her insist upon ‘moving’ on the First of May.”
“Won’rful!” says Mr. BUMSTEAD. “Sometime when you’re sober, JOHN MCLAUGHLIN, I’ll do a grave or two with you.”