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AVERY serious duty devolves upon me. If I were going to write a history of past ages there would be no difficulty about it. I could invent heroic characters to suit the public taste. Nothing is easier than to describe things that happened a thousand years ago, or never happened at all. There is but little danger of going wrong; and if you do, what difference does it make to the mass of mankind?
Entirely different is the task of the historiographer who writes not only of his own times, but of his own friends and associates. The simple truth will not shield him from the shafts of criticism; for no two persous see the same things with the same eyes, any more than they masti
KMered according to Act of Cuagrax, in the year 1861, by Harper tod Brothers, in the Clerk's UiHce of the Pis trirt Court for the Southern District of New York.
Vol. XXin.—No. 133.—A
cate their food with the same mouth, or take a pinch of snuff with the same nose. In my case the position is peculiarly embarrassing. I have to speak of events the most remarkable in the very face of numerous living witnesses; to describe scenes the most extraordinary without the slightest approach to exuberance of fancy; to paint portraits of distinguished characters that will be true to nature and satisfactory to the originals: in short, to be entertaining without offense, and complimentary without flattery. The sword of Damocles hangs over me. I can only hope that it will not fall until after the next election of Historiographer by the gentlemen of the " Coast Range Association."
I never could tell exactly why they selected me for this duty. Of late years my business has been to examine public depositories, and ascertain the amount of money left in them by the officers in charge. A considerable portion of my practice has been in the examination of vouchers for disbursements. What connection that is supposed to have with a record of facts I am at a loss to determine. My friend, Captain Toby, who has been a member of the Association for the past six years, says they make it a practice to select for this position persons of unusually idle habits and lazy disposition, on the ground that such worthless fellows must have ample time to do justice to the subject; as the Government appoints vagrant politicians to handle the public funds, because it affords them an opportunity of being honest — a species of penance devised originally by the burghers of Schilda, who, when they wanted to put a lobster to death, cast him into the water in order to drown him.
The "Coast Rangers" are not, as may be supposed, a formidable body of armed men, like the famous Ringers of Texas, whose business it was to scour the country and protect the settlers from the attacks of hostile Indians. We profess, on the contrary, to be eminently peaceful. The destruction of quails and rabbits is sufficient, generally, to satisfy our most sanguinary pro
pensities; though there are some among us who are ambitious enough to aspire to deer, elk, and grizzly bears. If we now and then take a pop at an Indian, it is only in the way of practice, and not from any unfriendly feeling toward that race. In the course of our travels we take a very extensive range of country, but make it a point to avoid all dangers not necessarily embraced within the limits of our researches, which, for the most part, are of a literary and scientific character.
The city of San Francisco is our usual place of residence. Of coursowe claim the privilege, under the Constitution, of refi ling where we please; hence some of us build handsome villas across the bay, by which means we enjoy the
summer breeze on both sides. Daring the principal part of the year we are engaged in the various pursuits of literature, art, science, agriculture, commerce, law, and the contemplation of the heavenly bodies. Our distinguished president belongs to the bench—a position to which he does great credit. Although profoundly versed in the intricacies of the judiciary, he is by no means ignorant of music and polite literature. He has a fine eye for scenery, and generally a good appetite after a long day's journey. On every subject he is thoroughly genial and entertaining; abounding in conversational resources, always in a pleasant humor, and ever ready to contribute to the happiness of others. Long life to his Honor the Judge! There are few better men in this world—certainly few who could not be better spared.
The bar is also honorably represented in our Association. We have among us several very respectable lawyers, in whose general good conduct we take considerable pride. Not one of them has ever been known to appropriate the blankets, saddle, bridle, spurs, or boots of any other member to his own use; and I do not hesitate to say that, in any case not involving an additional title to my property in Oakland, I would as soon trust in the honor of any of these gentlemen as in that of any other class, not excepting Collectors of Customs, Members of Congress, and Senators of the United States.
The only physician attached to our party is our cook, one Dr. Camprell, a very worthy personage of African descent. In the art of preparing prescriptions of fish-chowder, broiled steaks, slap-jacks, and puddings, I defy any medical man in existence to compete with Doctor Campbell. The great beauty of his system is that he invariably cures every body, and has never been known to charge an extravagant price for writing illegible Latin. His pills of chopped venison, mashed potatoes, and onions, rolled in the gravy, and covered with a nicelybrowned coating of flour, are the very best dinner pills ever invented. I have known them to
bring men to life who could not possibly have existed for fifteen minutes longer without perishing of hunger. Apart from the color of his skm—which must have been very nearly black originally, but which, by long accumulations of grease, smoke, and soot, aided by exposure to the weather, has become somewhat piebald—the Doctor is not, strictly speaking, a handsome man; nor is his costume caleulated to improve the general effect of his figure. The great importance of the art which he professes, and in which his soul is wrapped, has given something of a grave cast to his features, naturally not very symmetrical; and constant stooping over pots, pans, and kettles, together with a chronic "rheumntiz," so stiffened his joints, that there is but one left of which he can make any particular use, and that is at the extremity of his back-bone. The Doctor is also afflicted with a "misery in the head," the exact nature of which I have never been able to ascertain. It may be constitutional, or the effects of accident— probably a contusion of the brain, caused by some brilliant idea that struck him in early youth on the subject of his great future Mission in the culinary line. Every morning when he gets up he is only "tolerable, thank God!" The "rheumatiz" troubles his bones, and the "misery" is in his head; but when he gets the fire under full headway, and the pots, pans, and kettles bubbling, fizzing, and steaming, a trifling dose from the blue keg sets him all right; the "rheumatiz" and the "misery" are forgotten; a genial smile irradiates his countenance, his dusky skin glistens, and he hobbles around from pot to kettle, and from kettle to frying-pan, stirring up the savory messes, mumbling quaint aneedotes, or humming over the plantation melodies of his early youth, in a manner highly instructive and entertaining. By-and-by all is ready except a pot of refractory potatoes that will not get done. The Doctor stirs them, rakes the coals under them, piles on another stick or two of wood, gives them another stir, and then, in a voice of gravity becoming the importance of the occasion, informs the gentlemen of the Association that " Do taters is biled, gemmen I"
Next to the cook, in proper order, comes his chief patron, Mr. Tom Fry, another distinguished member of our Association.
If it were my fortune to possess an imaginative turn of mind, I would paint my friend Tom in an allegorical scene of great beauty and originality. The principal object in the fore-ground would be a large mince-pie, in the midst of which a round and jolly figure would be seated in the act of devouring his way out of the crust. That figure would be Tom. In the distance I would paint a beautiful sugar-loaf mountain, with rivers of Champagne running along its base. At one side would be a glimpse of the sea, with an oyster-boat stranded on the shore, and six men in red shirts turning over a tremendous green turtle by means of hand-spikes and beams of timber. I would make groves of trees in the middle ground, bearing, instead of fruit, the most beautiful roast turkeys imaginable, with here and there little pigs running about in the old fashion crying out for somebody to come and eat them. I would make the sky mackerel, and the sun broiling hot; and if I put a moon in some obscure part of the heavens to give effect to the scene, it would be an exact representation of a green cheese. I would then paint the goddess Hebe, with a face resembling a blazing fritter, in the act of approaching Tom and offering him a large punch-bowl full of mulled wine, while the Genius of Hunger would sit howling on the peak of a high rock in the distance. The picture would be at once original and striking; but then it would require extraordinary artistic powers to do it justice.
I can only introduce Tom as he is—the simplest and most genial of good fellows, loving all human kind, and free and jovial as the morning sunshine. Yet withal, Tom has his troubles in life as well as the happiest of us. While it is the lot of some to suffer from actual want, others are afflicted with imaginary grievances. By a kind dispensation of Providence an equalizing principle prevails in all nature. Nobody is allowed to be perfectly satisfied in this world. The besetting trouble of Tom's life is the want of something to eat. In the midst of plenty he is afflicted with a chronic starvation. It is a constant struggle with him to appease the cravings of a psculiar and insatiable appetite. He can never enjoy to the full extent the good things that fortune has spread before him because of that terrible vision of
Hunger which sits howling in the distance. But he has glimpses of happiness such as few of us can enjoy. Breakfast is the illuminating orb to which he turns with a grateful heart in the morning; lunch is the meridian of glory to which he aspires after breakfast; and dinner the grand ultimatum of existence at which he hopes to arrive after lunch. Meet him of a fine morning, when the birds are singing in the trees and the jasmine sheds its odors upon the balmy air, and he is absolutely inspired. He snuffs the air; it is redolent of the flesh-pots of Egypt. "What a morning," he exclaims enthusiastically, "for grouse or mushrooms!" Comment upon the pastoral beauties of the scene, and he espies a fat cow. "Gad," says he, "there's a fine cow! What sirloin steaks she would make!" and forthwith he resolves to ascertain whether she is designed for the shambles. By-the-way, do you know how to cook a steak? Whereupon you are button-holed a good hour on the prevailing erroneous methods of cooking steak, and half an hour more on the true method. Beef reminds him of mutton. From mutton he rises into the tenderness of lamb. Did you ever read Lamb? —a glorious fellow; understood thoroughly how to cook a pig. And with tears in his eyes Tom quotes the gentle Elia — crisp, tawny, wellwatched, not over-roasted—overcoming the coy, brittle resistance—the adhesive oleaginous, oh call it not fat, but the tender blossoming of fat! '' A splendid fellow, Lamb. Why, Sir, there is nothing like it in English literature; not even the 240 Ways of Cooking a Rabbit, by an English Epicure. Did you ever read it? No? Then buy it by all means. There are some good things in it."
Tom is a traveler. Though always at home in the metaphysics of lobster sauce, he makes occasional excursions into the broad fields of deviled kidney. While Captain Cook, Sir John Simpson, Bayard Taylor, and other ambitious travelers, have contented themselves by putting a girdle round about the earth, Tom has made
TOM TOY UACNTED.
life-long and hazardous explorations from the cupboard to the kitchen, from the hen-yard to the frying-pan, from the cooking-stove to the table. Others, at the close of day, wrap the drapery of their couch around them and lie down to pleasant dreams. Not so Tom. More indefatigable than the midnight astronomer, who peers at the stars through monster telescopes, he rises in the dead of night, drags forth his pocket-stove, strikes a light and cooks a snipe.
In camp he is the best of companions—ever jolly in the midst of afflictions. It is a greater pleasure to sec him starve on rounds of venison, baked deer's heads, ribs of elk, and marrowed toast, than to see other men feed. He luxuriates in the dirt, smoke, and savory odor of camp. His face beams with good-nature and grease; his voice assumes an oleaginous unction; he is prolific in aneedotes of by-gone dinners, and swells with a surplus of genial humanity and broiled venison. Long life to Tom Fry! Surely he will never stop living while his appetite lasts. On the sad day when it may please Providence to knock him into pie, he will at least be rid of one affliction—never more suffer from hunger or thirst. Should it be his misfortune to fall into evil hands, poor fellow, which all the saints forbid! I trust he may be properly done up in batter, with a sprinkling of nutmeg. If he should be called for at an untimely hour, it will certainly be by the ghost of a fat capon.
questions. I think his brain must be constructed somewhat in the fashion of a cobweb, it possesses such an extraordinary faculty for catching at the various troublesome problems that buzz around the circle of humanity. Combined with this trait, his propensity for argument is perfectly incorrigible; and, indeed, now while I write, I am haunted by a fear that he will suddenly appear before me, and not only dispute every word I say, but prove that words are merely arbitrary signs, l»ssessing intrinsically no more meaning than sticks and stones. It is a favorite theory of his, that, if it were not for the sake of commerce, we might as well talk to one another by means of punches and blows as by oral or written signs—a fact which I am not at all prepared to dispute. I have no doubt that, upon entering the world, Mr. Phil Wilkins must have questioned the right of mankind to propagate the human species; and that, being unable to obtain a satisfactory solution of his proposition, he set to work and devoted his infancy to the grand question of sleep. When he woke up, in the due course of years, it is supposed that he astonished and confounded his nurse by demanding to be informed—" What, after all, is sleep?" For the last thirty years of his life he has given himself completely up to logical analysis. He considers the mysteries of nature and creation generally in a philosophical point of view. When he has arrived at that point, however, various others present themselves, like the points of the Rocky Mountains, dim in the distance, and upon each he becomes lost in a fog of argument. He arrives at a conclusion that there is considerable doubt whether there is such a thing as a conclusion, and concludes not to conclude, but to argue the point in a different aspect, and show that, after all, points are no points. When men of this genius, as Sir Richard Steele observes, "are pretty far gone in learning, they will put you to prove that snow is white, and when you are upon that topic can say that there is really no such thing as color in nature." And what is Nature? Upon that point there has been a great diversity of opinions from the days of Plato and Aristotle down to the days of our excellent friend Phil Wilkins; but he is learned in them all, and can take all sides of the question, and defeat his opponent upon any. He was never yet known to be convinced. Truth will not convince him, for therein arises a question to his speculative mind as to the exact nature of truth. Is it Perfection, or is it the fountain of Perfection? Is it the negative of Error, or is it the positive of Actuality? All these matters must be duly weighed and considered; and he will weigh and consider them all night long—destroying your rest, filling your brain with dreadful difficulties which you never can get over, answering the most timid suggestion by a flood of argument on the opposite side, and maintaining what you dare not dispute with all the tenacity of an advocate at law. When you avow that you are convinced, and beg for quarter, he turns upon you like Cap