“Nonsense!” shouted the petulant old mackerel; and now I began to feel “sassy.”
“But you must admit, Mr. Secretary, that there is a great deal of sense in Mr. PUNCHINELLO’S nonsense. He shoots folly as it flies, and yet it’s a great pity that he can’t shoot all the fools.”
“I am impressed with the truth of that remark, from the fact of his sending you here,” was the reply, delivered with an air and tone intended to be witheringly sarcastic. That was enough for me, so I dropped my gloves (metaphorically speaking) and went for him.
“Old man!” says I, “you were lifted out of the quiet of a happy home and placed here, not so much by the act of our illustrious President as by the dispensation of a mysterious Providence. ‘Way down in Skewdunk they held prayer-meetings when they heard that news, and a good many of them haven’t stopped praying yet. But only last week, let me tell you, Deacon DRYASDUST wrote to General GRANT’S father, saying: ‘JESSE, old boy, there’s no use praying for that venerable porgy any longer; he’s worser nor ever, and bound to drag LYSSES down to the bottom with him.’ The kind old man wrote back to the Deacon ‘That’s so, GILL, as sure as pickled souse ain’t pickled salmon.’ And now, Mr. Secretary, I come to the point. What old GILL DRYASDUST and JESSE GRANT think of you is what the people think; and when PUNCHINELLO shoots at you an arrow now and then, dipped in fun, and winged with satire, he does it in no spirit of surly bitterness or spleen, but with a heart full of hope and charity, and as much as says to the people of the United States, in your hearing: ‘My good friends, keep on praying for brother FISH, and don’t give him up because some think him a “scaly” fellow.'”
Thus finishing this mingled admonition and explanation, I dropped a single tear upon the figure worked in the carpet, and gloomily quitted the apartment.
The next morning I found a letter upon the table, at my lodgings, bearing the imprint of the Department of State, and couched in these terms:
Dear Sir: Instructions have been sent from this Department to Admiral POOR, commanding U. S. Squadron in Cuban waters to extend to American merchants engaged in establishing a trade in ant-eaters with the inhabitants of the South Sea Chickadiddle Islands, every protection consistent with his remaining where he now is.
All of which is respectfully submitted.
Worms are invertebral animals; in other words, they are backboneless, but nevertheless some of them—for example the prickly caterpillars—are full of spines. In Texas they call a chicken-snake seven feet long a worm; but it would be just as reasonable to call the Rosse Telescope an opera-glass.
The common earthworm is the most unfortunate variety of the species. Beaks are always after him, and he is often taken up early in the morning while lying perdue in the moist meadow grass. Earthworms are a good bait for trout, but the highflyers of the gentle craft consider it infra dig to dig them. Impaled on a hook, they are as lively as if on a bender, and if thrown, in this condition, into a stream or pool, the fish are apt to mistake them for their natural Grub. When quickly drawn from the liquid element by the angler, they sometimes come up with a single drop of water hanging to them, and sometimes—though more rarely—with two Gills. The question whether the hook hurts them, or only tickles till they squirm, is one of those knotty problems that physiologists have failed to solve. COWPER, the poet, had a tenderness for the earthworm. So also had IZAAK WALTON, who recommends that he be skewered “tenderly, as if you loved him.”
From the cradle to the grave, and even after we are deposited in the latter, our bodies are liable to be infested with worms. There is the trichina spiralis, which really exists, although the German pork-butchers denounce the story as a “pig lie;” the ordinary intestinal worm, which disports itself, eel-like, in the Alimentary Canal; and the tape worm, of two varieties, one of which performs its circumlocutory antics in the human stomach, and the other in the government Bureaux at Washington. The worm that feeds on the cold meat of humanity, although the most insignificant of reptiles, has one attribute of Diety. It is no respecter of persons, and would as lief pick a bone in a royal vault as in POTTER’S Field. All flesh is the same to it—unless saturated with carbolic acid. It is said that all living things are propagated—that the process of creation ceased ages ago; yet it is quite certain that the worms known as maggots may be created by a blow. The most detestable of all the vermicular tribe is the Worm of the Still, which is a sort of caterer for the worm which never dieth—a reptile of another sphere, that has never been described in Natural History. The only worm recognized as edible by civilized man is produced in Italy and vulgarly known as wormy-chilly. The subject is susceptible of further expansion, but having run it into the ground, we here break it off.
The Paris correspondence of one of the city dailies has the following terse, but somewhat equivocal statement:
“Another murder of a brutal character is reported.”
At the first glance one is inclined to wonder who the “brutal character” was, whose violent death is thus referred to. On consideration, however, it is possible to arrive at the conclusion that no particular character is pointed at, but only a murder designated as brutal.
It is a way with newspaper correspondents to characterize some murders as brutal, with the view, probably, of distinguishing them from benignant murders, which, everybody knows, are of such frequent occurrence.
Closely allied to the study of history is that of the origin of names, and there is in it a wonderful fascination. The following brief statements will show from what a trifling incident a name may be derived—especially a Western name.
Previous to 1831 there was nothing on the site where Chicago now stands but an Indian post, which was driven into the ground at the corner of Madison and Dearborn streets. The present post-office marks the spot and commemorates the old name. About the year 1740 a party of adventurous young ladies, belonging to a Michigan boarding-school, came across the lake on an enormous raft. When they had bathed in the pellucid stream that now pours its crystal waters into the lake, they started to return, when a bad chief known as LONGJON referred to the departing maids as a She-cargo. Hence the name.
There is another version of the origin of the city’s name, which states that a good Indian, named UNG KELL TOE BEE, when about to immolate a fowl for his dinner on one occasion, repented of his murderous intent and resolved to go hungry, exclaiming, as he let it fly, “Chicky-go! there is room enough in the world for thee and me.” The first story, however, is best authenticated.
Michigan, as is now well known, is only a corruption of the name of Father MIKE EGAN, an Irish Catholic priest, who lived and toiled, and was finally sacrificed by the Indians, on the site of the present city of Detroit.
Iowa is only a euphonious adaptation of the symbolic letters I.O.A., which the Surveyor-General of the United States, in 1835, ordered to have inscribed on all the quarter-section posts in that territory. The initials stood for the familiar Latin maxim, Idoneus omnium audaces, which, freely translated, means “go in and win.” Some emigrants saw the cabalistic inscription all along the roadside, and they twisted the initials into a name for their State. It was a happy thought.
The capital of Wisconsin derived its present name from a curious circumstance that occurred in the time of the mound-builders, hundreds of years before MCFARLAND went there to live. An architect saved a woman’s life, at the risk of his own, from a savage attack of bears,—which made her husband furiously jealous. When he came home from his mound-building, and ascertained what had been done, he sharpened his trowel and went for the destroyer of his happiness. A medicine-man, observing his momentary frenzy, grappled with and threw him, crying to the neighbors, “Mad! ice on!” Ice was applied to his scalp, and the life of his benefactor was saved. Ever since, the place has been called Madison.
Milwaukee received its name from an eminent red predecessor of the pedestrian WESTON. This tremendous strider was called, in his melodious native tongue, “MILE-WALKEE”—because, to the infinite delight of his trainer, HOR. SCREELEY—he could make a mile in four minutes, without breaking.
The name of Superior was quite obscure in its origin, and the solution only yielded to the most persistent and patient inquiry. Even CHARLEVOIX does not mention it. It seems that the Chippewas who inhabit the Southwestern shore of the Lake were formerly more wretched than now—the squaws more ragged, and the pappooses more Squalléd; and when CARVER came through he established a charity soup-house near the western extremity. The beggarly braves flocked in with their gingerbread-colored broods, and for months the benevolent sutler who was left in charge of the establishment stood on a barrel-head and shouted daily to the assembled thousands, “Soup! Here y’are!” This was taken up and corrupted by the ignorant aborigines, and finally became Superior.
It is not necessary to say that Kenosha was named after the Western game of “Keno,” or that Winnipeg is a deduction of the pleasant game of cribbage.
The origin of the name of Selma will be obvious to all thoughtful readers who remember that it has been a notorious slave market.
Michillimackinac is an Indian name, and originated in a touching dialogue between two little Pottawattomies in the dead of winter. One baby complained that he was hungry, not having had a drop of dinner, when the other calmly replied, “My-chilly-ma-can-ac-commodate-you.” The juvenile benevolence was so wonderful that it rendered the phrase immortal, and the whole of it was made the name of a county in Michigan. Of late years, however, this irreverent generation has lopped off the last few syllables, spoiling the harmony of the expression, and entirely sacrificing its affecting moral.