University of Virginia Library

Search this document 

a web of many textures

expand section 
expand section 


Page 378


Ike is well advanced in his class. He is, in some
things, beyond the teacher's art, and could, in fact, give
that functionary some lessons in arts wherein he is perfect.
Ike dislikes composition where a theme is given
out to be written upon by the scholars, and his credits
are not very great for his efforts in that direction generally;
but one day he astonished the master and
every one by an elaborate article on the Horse. He
was called upon to read it aloud to the scholars; and,
getting upon the platform, he made a bow, and began:


The horse is a quadruped, with four legs — two behind,
and two before. He has a tail that grows on to
the hind part of his body, that nature has furnished him,
with which to drive the flies away. His head is situated
on the other end, opposite his tail, and is used principally
to fasten a bridle to to drive him by, and to put
into a basket to eat oats with. Horses are very useful
animals, and people could n't get along very well without
them — especially truckmen and omnibus-drivers,
who don't seem to be half grateful enough because
they 've got 'em. They are very convenient animals in
the country in vacation time, and go very fast over the
country roads when boys sticks pins into 'em, a specie
of cruelty that I would n't encourage. Horses generally
are covered with red hair, though some are white, and


Page 379
others are gray and black. Nobody ever saw a blue
horse, which is considered very strange by eminent
naturals. The horse is quite an intelligent animal, and
can sleep standing up, which is a very convenient gift,
especially where there is a crowd and it is difficult to
get a chance to lay.

There is a great variety of horses — fast horses and
slow horses, clothes-horses, horse-mackerel, saw-horses,
and horse-flies, horse-chestnuts, and horse-radish. The
clothes-horse is a very quiet animal to have round a
house, and is never known to kick, though very apt to
raise a row when it gets capsized. The same may be
said of the saw-horse, which will stand without tieing.
Horse-flies is a very vicious beast, and very annoying
in the summer, when a fellow is in swimming. Horse-mackerel
I don't know anything about, only that they
swim in the water, and are a specie of fish. Horse-chestnuts
is prime to pelt Mickeys with, and horse-radish
is a mighty smart horse, but bad to have standing
round where there 's small children.

The horse is found in all countries, principally in
lively-stables, where they may be hired to run by the
mile, considered by them as can get money a great
luxury, especially in the sleighing season. In South
America they grow wild, and the Indians catch them
with nooses that they throw over the horses' heads,
which must be thought, by the horses, a great noosance.

He received so much credit for this, that he continued
his efforts, and the following succeeded:


This is a great article of commerce, and forms one of
our greatest social institutions. It enters into the domestic


Page 380
circle, and drives away care; because the one
who smokes in the domestic circle does n't care a snap
who likes it or not. It comes in different shapes — silver-leaf,
fine-cut, cavendish, and nigger-head. This last
has its name from the negroes in Virginia, who get it
up for the market. Tobacco was first introduced into
England in the year 1600, and some say by Sir Walter
Raleigh; and the people did n't object to being introduced
to it, though King James wrote something about
it, intending to give it fits; but it became in everybody's
mouth, and soon more “old soldiers” of tobacco
were to be seen than there was in the army of England.
Sir Walter Raleigh's appetite for the weed was
afterwards impaired by having his head cut off. His
memory has been puffed as a great benefactory to the
human race that smokes. Tobacco, when rolled up
into cigars, is a very agreeable preparation, and the
mildest form in which it is used. Some people take it
in snuff, by holding the snuff between the thumb and
finger, and drawing it up into the nose. This is an
exciting operation with elderly females, and it is interesting
to watch its effects when the nose is fully
charged and primed, before it sneezes off. Chewing
and smoking belong only to men, and such boys as do
it on the sly, when the old folks is n't round. The essential
oil of tobacco is said to be very dilatorious to
human life. I don't know why it is essential that there
should be any oil about it; but the apothecaries will
have it so. Tobacco is called a great leveller, especially
when a fellow gets sick in trying to learn. Then
it levels men flat enough. But it is called a leveller
because a rich man does n't feel above asking a poor
chap for a light when his cigar is gone out — a beautiful
and sublime instance of magnificent condescension!


Page 381
Tobacco may be, from this, put among the incentives
to virtuous action, and a box of short-sixes become a
missionary in the cause of civilization. It is estimated
that over ten millions of cigars are smoked in
Boston in a year, and that, if they were stretched,
one behind another, they would reach round the world
three times! It is also said that, if all the old chaws of
tobacco should be put together at the end of a year,
that they would make a pile bigger 'n Mount Washington.
The great invention of spittoons, which has done
so much to fulfil human expectoration, is the offspring
of tobacco, and gives a new claim of that delightful
plant to our gratitude. It is a great help in agriculture,
and its smoke is used to kill bugs on flowers, when boys
can do a useful turn, and have fine fun in smoking, and
nothing be said about it. Much more might be writ
about tobacco, but I will conclude by just saying that
it is a great pickpocket, and takes the money away from
a fellow like sixty.

The following, of a similar character with the above,
also excited considerable remark among the scholars:


This is the greatest bird that has ever spread his
wings over this great and glorious country. The place
where he builds his nest is called an eyrie, away up on
the precipices where the foot of man can't come, though
perhaps a boy's might. The eagle is a ferocious fellow,
and sits on the top of the cliffs and looks sharp for
plunder. He gets tired of waiting, and then he starts
out in the blue expensive heavens, and soars all around,
on his opinions, over the land and the water, to see


Page 382
what he can pounce down upon. But, though he is
called a very cruel bird, he always preys before eating,
just like any good moral man at the head of his family.
He eats his victuals raw, which is an unfavorable habit,
but it is supposed that he eats it so because he likes
to. He is a very courageous bird, and will fight like
blazes for his young, and steals chickens wherever he
can see them. He has been known to carry off a young
baby to his nest, which seems to show that eagles love
little children. He is a bird of great talons, and is much
respected by birds of the feathered tribe that are afraid
of him.

This bird is a great study for artists, but appears to
best advantage on the ten-dollar gold pieces, and fifty-cent
pieces, and pretty well on the dimes, as he sits
gathering up his thunderbolts under him, as if he was
in a great hurry to be off. He has lately broke out on
the new cent, and seems as if, in his hurry, he had
dropped all his thunder. The American eagle is the
patriot's hope, and the inspiration of Fourth of July.
He soars through the realms of the poet's fancy, and
whets his beak on the highest peak of the orator's
imagination. He is in the mouth of every politician,
so to speak. He is said by them to stand on the Rocky
Mountains, and to dip his bill into the Atlantic, while
his tail casts a shadow on the Pacific coast. This is all
gammon. There never was one more than eight feet
long from the tip of one wing to the tip of tother. His
angry scream is heard ever so far, and he don't care a
feather for anybody. Take him every way, he is an
immense fowl, and his march is over the mounting wave,
with the star-spangled banner in his hand, whistling
Yankee Doodle.


Page 383

Ike's composition upon the Dog has obtained a worldwide
celebrity, and has already been installed as a


The dog is a very useful animal, and very intelligent.
He knows lots and noses more, and runs after sticks
and goes overboard after stones delightfully. He is a
fine companion in the fields, and chases grasshoppers
and ground sparrows beautifully. He is a loving
animal, and licks your hand when you lick him. He
don't never smile, but has a ridiculous way of wagging
his tail when he is glad, as if by his tail he would tell
the story of his joy. Dogs is very apt to quarrel,
especially when they are set on by bad boys, and growl
and bark at nights, and howl under windows where
folks are sick, and scare timid folks to death for fear
they are going to die. A dog's nose is a prime thing
to pinch, and seems to be put where it is on purpose.
Some say that it is made of India-rubber, but that 's all

A great many things are told about dogs and their
intelligence. Some of 'em are true, and some of 'em
is n't. They can carry bundles, and know when it is
time to go to dinner, and love to tease cats, and make
a terrible fuss when any one puts turpentine on 'em or
ties kettles to their tails. There is a great many different
kinds of dogs, and no one kind alike. There are
pointers, and setters, and tarriers, and bull-dogs, and
lap-dogs, and spaniels, and water-dogs, and Newfoundland
dogs, and St. Bernard's dogs, and watch-dogs, and
dog-watches, and Lion. Pointers and setters are used
by hunters in finding game, and are liable to get shot
by near-sighted people who can't tell a dog from a rabbit.
Newfoundland dogs were sent by Providence on


Page 384
purpose to pull little children from the water, and the
St. Bernard's to keep folks from freezing to death in the
Rocky Mountains. They take little boys on their backs,
and carry them to some safe place, and then go back
after more. Bull-dogs are vicious beasts, and don't like
to have boys meddle with 'em, and the boys, being very
considerate, does n't meddle with 'em. They let 'em
alone ever so much, and don't tackle 'em into wagons,
as they do some others. Lap-dogs an't of no use to
nobody but for women to play with who an't got no
children, and it is a pity they had n't. They are made
on purpose, and have long, white, silky hair, and blue
ribbons round their necks. All the lap-dogs are named
Fiddle. The faithful watch-dog is an unwholesome chap
for burglars. “I love to hear the watch-dog's honest
bark,” and it is prime to strike on to the shutters of a
store in the evening, and hear what a muss the watch-dog
makes about it. They don't like to be disturbed, I
guess, from their cat-naps. Lion is a great dog.
He is gentle, he is kind,
And his tail sticks out behind,
and you can't find a better dog anywhere than he. He
is black all over, only he is white on his stomach, and
on the end of his tail. He loves fun, and goes into the
dirt with perfect impurity. He knows when it is dinner-time,
and is very useful in clearing up stray bits of
meat that might be wasted. He 's a great friend to the
Metropolitan Railroad, for it is over two years since he
first attempted to bark the omnibuses out of Washington-street,
and if he has one failing stronger than
another, it is a love for the butcher on Shawmut-avenue,
whom he never fails to call upon when passing. I
could tell you more about dogs, and dog-vanes, and


Page 385
doggerel, and sad dogs, and merry dogs; but you might
think me dogmatical, and I guess I 've said enough.

Ike's ideas of Politics are very profound, showing a
remarkable astuteness in the mind of Young America:


Politics is a name derived from two Greek words, poll
and tick. Polls is the place where people exercises their
free sufferings, after they have paid nine shillings for 'em
into the city treasury; and tick is trust, that all the
parties want the people to have in 'em before election;
and both together make Politics, an institution of our
country next to the house of correction in importance.
Politics is a business that has to be followed pretty
close to make anything by it, and is made up of hurras,
torch-light processions, music, mass meetings, and humbug.
Politics is an interesting element in families
where the people all think differently, and go in strong
for discussion; it keeps things lively, and is excellent
for weak lungs. Torch-light processions are great for
lightening the minds of the people, and the pockets of
them that gets 'em up. These, with American flags and
Hail Columbia, makes the people take fire with enthusiasm,
and take cold in the night air, as they go round
making Judies of themselves and everybody that looks
at 'em. Politics is very apt to bring about broken
heads among them that indulges in 'em too freely, like
whiskey, and it is always best to see that you get the
right article. There 's a number of kinds of politics,
and every politician believes his kind is best. The
Democrats think theirs is best, and the Whigs, and the
Republicans, and the Americans, theirs. They can't be
all best. Those are the best that are the strongest, and


Page 386
elections always result in favor of them that has the
most votes. Politics is capital exercise for the ingenuity
of women who have n't anything else to do at home,
whose babies can take care of themselves, and won't
tumble into the fire if they leave 'em to go to political
meetings, or to see torch-light processions. Politics is
the meat that the American eagle feeds on when he
soars to heaven, and then comes down again as hungry
as a meeting-house. Politics should be sustained among
our most cherished institutions, and next to fun, clam-chowder,
and going smelting, they are the best thing

“The star-spangled banner, O, long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”

The following, relating to a famous locality, will be
read with deep interest, for its truthfulness to history,
and for other reasons:


This rock was brought to this country in the May
Flower, in the year 1492. by the Pilgrims, under directions
of Elder Brewster, who afterwards moved to
Boston, and became an alderman of that city. Plymouth
Rock was put on a wharf, where part of it remains to
the present day, as people may see, if they will take
the trouble to scratch the dirt away. No reason is
given for putting the rock up so far from the water,
except it was to keep it out of the wet. It was on this
rock that Governor Carver shook hands with Samoset,
who said, “Welcome, Englishmen.” It is recorded that
when Samoset came up Governor Carver asked him if
he was a real Ingine, or only a member of an Ingine
company. The rock has long been regarded as a very


Page 387
famous place, and a great many things have been
written about it. Strangers coming on the coast always
climb to the mast-heads with a spy-glass to see Plymouth
Rock. The American Eagle for a great many
years used to come and whet his beak on it; but in
1653, Miles Standish, in order to keep it from getting
stolen, took all there was of it above ground under his
arm, and carried it up and put it in front of Pilgrim
Hall, where it remains at the present time, invested with
great interest and an iron fence. The fence bears the
names of all the Pilgrims in cast-iron letters that can't
be rubbed out. The other part of the rock the descendants
of the Pilgrims have covered up with land, probably
to save it from being worn out by the allusions
touching it, that are thrown off by Fourth of July orators
and other patriots. Plymouth Rock is the corner-stone
in the cellar wall of our republican structure,
paregorically speaking, and the spirit of Liberty sits
upon it with a drawn sword in one hand and the torch
of freedom in the other. The monument to the Pilgrim
Fathers, upon Plymouth Rock, will be three thousand
feet above the level of the sea, and can be easily seen
from New Haven, the place the Pilgrims came from,
with the naked eye. It was concerning this rock that
Pierpont wrote his celebrated ode, commencing,

“We 've found the rock, the travellers cried,”

supposed to allude to the Cushman procession that
visited the spot, at the time of the great famine. Peregrine
White, the first white child born in Massachusetts,
was born on Plymouth Rock, and Miles Standish, when
John Alden swindled him out of Priscilla, in 1803,
sharpened his sword on Plymouth Rock, swearing


Page 388
revenge. In short, Plymouth Rock is one of the palladiums
of our liberty; and if foes invade the shores of
Plymouth at high water, — for they can never get in at
low tide, — the people will throw this rock in their
teeth. It is a precious legacy from the Past to the
Present, and from it may be reckoned the Pilgrim's