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Page 141



It is a strange title to a very strange story, which, I
should not be willing to swear to the correctness of, if
any one but myself had told it. But here is the tale,
believe it or not. I am a remarkably sensitive man,
keenly alive to the beautiful in nature or art, — have in
my lifetime gone miles out of my way to see a beautiful
face, and a glimpse of some picturesque scene of
sea or shore has driven me wild with delight. I had
arrived in Boston from an old bachelor jaunt to the
White Hills, solitary and alone. On such occasions I
cannot bear to have any one with me. A voice disturbs
me, and grates upon my nerves. I have turned
almost hermit, and forsworn men, merely because a
frivolous fool has cried out some commonplace exclamation
upon viewing scenes that nothing but expressive
silence could do justice to. An exception to this, however,
must be made in favor of the militia captain on
Mount Washington, who, in delight at the sublimity of
the scene before him, cried, “Attention, the universe!”
There must be an exception in this case, of course.

I arrived in Boston, after an absence of some years
from it, — almost a stranger in it, though I remembered
Faneuil Hall, and the Old South, and the Old Province
House, and the Old Jail, that stood where the Courthouse
was, and old “101,” where I had made my home
for several years, in a retired up-stairs back room, that
overlooked a large garden, and commanded a fine view
of the country round about. Here I returned, and, by
good luck, as I thought, engaged my former apartment,
which the landlady informed me could be vacated for
me immediately. I did not take possession till late in


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the evening, and reserved my first glance for the objects
of my admiration for the morning, as soon as I should
rise. I went to sleep dreaming of garden walks and
summer-houses, and clustering blossoms, that formed
the inner side of a wide horizon of beauty, which I
gazed on with uninterrupted delight, when the clatter
of a milkman's quart-pot upon a gate knocked me all
awake in a moment, and I was conscious that it was
morning, and the sun was shining in at my window.

I immediately arose and dressed myself, when, placing
my chair close to the window, I drew aside the
curtain. What! the garden had disappeared, gone,
and the beautiful scene which so long had gladdened
me was obscured by a red, flaming brick wall, without a
window in it, the back of a block of stores on another
street. I reached out of the window and looked down
upon a shed where I had in old times seen damsels, in
the blush of youth and morning, hanging out clothes;
but the shed had disappeared, and a long brick L protruded
in its stead, with a glass roof, beneath which I
could see workmen in their shirt-sleeves moving to and
fro. I fancied, in my first disappointment, that everything
which I had regarded was swept away, and, humming
to myself some original lines, that just then
occurred to me, beginning

“'T was ever thus, from childhood's hour,
I 've seen my fondest hopes decay,”
I was about closing the curtain, when I saw, through
a little vista between the buildings, a beautiful view of
a fair scene beyond, — clear sky, green trees, and distance,
— made more beautiful from the difficulty through
which it was seen. I thought I should become reconciled
in a little while to the loss of the rest, could I


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retain this. Whenever I was in the house I took my
station by my window, and enjoyed with miserly regard
my buena vista.

But “a change came o'er the spirit of my dream.” I
found one day a source of extreme nervous anxiety to
me right in the way of my enjoyment. Some demon,
with a special disposition to torment me, had leased a
room in a corner of my vista — the proscenium-box, so
to speak — to an unappreciative wretch, who, with a
levity that deserved the thumb-screws, had placed a
large bust of Shakespeare in the window, and put
thereon a red shirt and black neck-cloth, and had
covered the head with an old straw hat, making the
great bard of Avon look as if he had just returned from
some jolly bout in the harbor, or some deer-stealing
operation in the country. I shut my window in disgust.
The next day I looked. The bust was still
there, with the addition of a black moustache. I
dropped into a seat. The third day a large green patch
was placed over one eye. The fourth day a hole had
been made through the lips, and Shakespeare was
actually smoking a long nine! Shade of Sir Walter
Raleigh! but my blood boiled at the outrage upon
me and upon Shakespeare. I tried to think of some
remedy for the nuisance, and went out to reconnoitre
the premises. I found there was a narrow alley leading
to the shed which formed the outer bound of the
territory where my annoyance was placed, and that
from this, with a moderately long stick, I could reach
the hated object, push it from its position in the window,
and dash it to pieces. My plan was formed, and that
night I resolved it should be executed.

About eleven o'clock that summer night, with Tarquin's
strides, and a footfall as light as a cat's, I was on


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my way to my revenge, armed with resolution and a
long cane-pole that I had procured for the purpose.
The alley-way was dark, which favored me, and I
gained my destination without detection. A moment
more and I stood on the shed, which commanded a view
of the room in the open window of which my bane was
resting. A moment more —

It was a warm night, and, as unpropitious fortune
would have it, directly below the window where the
bust was resting, the cook was sitting with her lover in
the dark, talking preliminary matters incident to matrimony.
The oppressive heat had made them drowsy,
and, leaning their heads upon the window-sill, they were
both fast asleep. They had not heard my step upon the
shed. Crash! Down came the bust, red shirt, hat, and
all, and planted itself directly between them; and as the
lover opened his eyes he was astonished to find a masculine
form between him and his dear. His first impulse
was carried out, to plump the figure betwixt the
eyes; his next was carried out with equal promptness,
to let it alone — for his knuckles were hurt. At this
instant he caught a view of the outline of my retiring
figure, and, bounding through the window, he darted
out of the shed-door, meeting me, as I descended, with a
warm embrace and an energetic exclamation, which I
construed into “Watch!” I was much gratified,
besides, to hear the windows in the vicinity open, as if
a public interest were awakening. Thanks to my
science, I had muscle and strength, and here was a field
for their operation. I used them with a will. I
punched my adversary in the dark, and he was so busy
in taking care of himself that he ceased to halloo for the
watch. At this moment, a blow aimed at my head by
the cook, who had emerged from the shed, took effect


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on his, and he rolled upon the ground, defeated, while I
hastened off.

In a few minutes I was in my room. I looked out,
and could see lights moving in the house I had just left,
as if the garrison were aroused. I went to bed happy.
My object was achieved. The next morning, to enjoy
my triumph, I looked towards the hated window. My
crest fell immediately, for there, upon the window-frame,
was the bust of Shakespeare, with the red shirt
still upon it; but, instead of the old straw hat upon its
head, my own hat, with my name in it, that, I forgot to
say, I had left upon the field.

The papers, the next day, were full of it, and reference
to the Columbian Centinel files for June, 1838,
will show the following:

Daring Outrage. — Last evening a burglarious attempt
was made to enter the house of Mr. T. Speed, in
— street; but the burglar threw down a bust of
Shakespeare in the attempt, which attracted the attention
of Mr. Muggins, passing at the time, who pursued the
ruffian over a shed, and boldly attacked him in Marsh
alley, when the villain drew a pistol and threatened to
shoot his assailant, who persistingly stuck to him until
a blow from the butt of the pistol knocked him down,
and the rascal escaped, leaving his hat on the premises,
in which was the name O. Hush. Mr. Muggins treated
him very severely, and it is believed the atrocious
wretch may be detected by the injury he received.
The police are upon his track.

It had happened, fortunately, that I was to pay for
my accommodations by the quarter. The landlady was
the only one who knew my name, and her reply to the


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questions with regard to it having been simply “Hush,”
it had been deemed that she wished to keep shady
about the matter, and they had hushed. The old lady
did not read the papers, and I was safe from her; but
I thought it advisable to leave that afternoon by stage
for the mountains. Before leaving, I glanced from the
window. The bust was still there, and it seemed that
the features wore a malicious smile of satisfaction at
my discomforture. I slammed the door to with a
bang, and bade good-by to Number One Hundred and