University of Virginia Library

Search this document 

collapse section1. 
expand section2. 
expand section3. 


“I 'll tell it your Honor,” quoth the Corporal, directly.
“Provided,” said my uncle Toby, “it is not a merry one.”
“It is not a merry one,” replied the Corporal.
“Nor would I have it altogether a grave one,” added my uncle Toby.
“It is neither the one nor the other,” replied the Corporal.
“Then I will thank thee for it with all my heart,” cried my uncle Toby: “so prithee begin it, Trim.”


Himmel! Cospetto! Cielo! May our nests be built
on the strongest and leafiest bough of the great tree
Ygdrasil! May they be lined with love, soft and warm,
and may the storms be kind to them: Amen, and
Amen!” said Paul Rübetsahl.

Now, a murrain on all villainous lodging-houses, say
I! Here one's soul has but now taken a body to shelter
in, a year or two, from the rains of time; and, diable!
the poor tenant must straightway fall to and arrange
for repairing his house three times a day, or else the
whole building will give way, break down and rot in a
week, and the unhappy soul must crawl out from the
ruins, full of bruises and bad odors, a regret to old
neighbors and a laughing-butt to angels!

Old Adam, thou shouldst be tried for a swindling
landlord, in that thou hast erected this long rotten row


Page 2
of tumble-down houses for thy tenants, who were also,
more shame on thee, thy children!

Now, gentle reader, strange to say, the ability of an
author to rise above the mere drudgery of these tri-daily
repairs and plunge into his beloved music, — into his
beloved music which must now forego fine melody by
reason of the din and vile clatter of work about the
house of the body, — this ability, I say, depends upon
nothing but thy name.

Thy name, most sweet reader, should be Legion: and
it is done.

Poets' logic, forever! and so, O twenty-five thousand
gentle readers, there is probably among you but one
individual who is totally unaffected by some ghost of a
shadow of an inkling of a curiosity to know the causes
precedent of those ejaculations which commence this

That one individual?

You all know him.

He is a grocer.

His sign extends across the sidewalk, obtrusively and
triumphantly: as who should say, “Pass sub jugum,
conquered customers!”

His sign beareth device


and there is a certain complacent truculency in the
whole of it. For the G is a round sound G; and the
P is as if a man should stick thumb in his vest armhole
after a good dinner, and the E extends his arms to
see the mad R lifting his right foot and kicking poor C
over against Y with his hands thrown up protesting,


Page 3
while the two M M's scramble away on all fours, to the
round amazement of O, who would fain see the N of
it all!

Mr. Percymmon is a match-maker. He says to himself,
“Love and Liquor, Friendship and Fools, Fiddles
and Fol-de-rol!” — that is the way he pairs them off.

Mr. Percymmon is a philosopher. He accounts for
the aggregation of men into societies, in this way: —
“Once upon a time,” says he, “there arose in the breasts
of men a simultaneous desire for the formation of stock-companies,
and for the protection of their charters and
vested rights: hence villages, towns, cities, municipal
governments, state governments, United States!”

Mr. Percymmon is a satirical iconoclast. Once he
was decoyed into a theatre. In the critical and supremely
pathetic moment when Romeo was declaring
the pain of his passion, Mr. P. said, in a voice audible
to the whole assembly, “Try J. Bovee Dod's Stomach

Mr. Percymmon is a punster. He believes that marital
bonds are flat i' the market, and that the ties of
humanity are railroad ties.

Well, one saved makes more rejoicing than twenty-four
thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine that were
not lost. And I will have a word with thee, O Percymmon!

When thou higglest over mackerel prices, occurreth
ever to thee that, as mackerel swim in the sea, so swim
men in the diaphanous waves of time? And when thou
hearest the noise of thy busy trucks, dreamest thou
ever it is the never-ending melancholy monotone of the
time-sea beating upon the desolate sands of death?


Page 4
And that this monotone is the devil's dainty hush-song
and lullaby wherewith he lulleth himself to rest? And
when thy new customer drinketh his whiskey with thee,
anticipatest thou that some day soon the vast thirsty
Cyclops-shadow of eternity shall stoop and drink down
the sea of time at a swallow? Hast thou studied the
intimate inter-balance of the prices of cheese and of salvation?
And thinkest thou there is any wide difference
betwixt cutting down the salary of John Simpson, thy
pale book-keeper, and cutting up the coat of him for
whose garments they cast lots?

And knowest thou the tie betwixt mess-pork and

Gentle Twenty-four-thousand-nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine,
who have waited so long, it were but just you
should forthwith see Paul Rübetsahl, who has as yet
been nothing more than the voice of the fisherman's
Genie, and who has lain like a cloud confined in the
sealed brazen vessel of