University of Virginia Library


Page 135


Barry was not the man to suffer from headaches;
but his stomach was one that needed to be fortified by
tonics. The sight of his friend, when he discovered the
occupation in which he was engaged, fully aroused him.
He was on his feet in an instant, jerking up his trousers,
and approaching Nettles with the haste of a person who
fears that he may come too late. But there were some
particulars in which Nettles never abandoned his companion.
He was emphatically what young people call
“a good fellow,” and good fellowship implies the necessity
of assisting your friend and facilitating his ready
attainment of all desirable indulgences. In making an
anti-fogmatic for himself, he had not forgotten his comrade.
There was a huge vessel before him, where the
beverage stood in waiting, and Tom, Jones Barry, and
the manager of the amphitheatre, were soon engaged in
a hob-a-nobbing match that didn't stop at a single stoop.
Barry declared himself quite happy. He had enjoyed
a pleasant dream of the magician's wife, and he naturally
inquired after her.

“Look in,” said Tom Nettles, with a smirk to the
manager which Barry did not perceive, while he pointed
the latter to the sanctum where the reconciliation
had taken place the night before. Without a moment's
hesitation, our little hero followed the finger, and found
himself in the lady's dressing-room, her toilet only begun,
and she, in the most loose undress in the world,
employed before the broken mirror which hung from one
of the uprights of the tent. Barry was astounded,
and would have started back; but she saw him in the


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glass, and, wheeling round, at once summoned him,
though in the very sweetest accents, to approach.

“You are just in time,” said she; “I wanted somebody
to lace my jackets.”

“Jackets!” exclaimed Barry, aghast.

“Yes, to be sure! Come now, you're a nice little
fellow, I know. Let me see—you have small fingers.
Show yourself diligent, and help me to fix myself.
That man of mine never gives me any assistance.
There he sleeps. Look at him. He will snore till noon,
and never fairly wakens till it's time to dress for the

She pointed to the end of a wagon that appeared
under a corner of the tent, from which, sure enough,
the ears of Barry detected a very decided snore. But
this did not encourage him. He was utterly astounded
at the new duty required at his hands. In all his experience,
he had never before laced a woman's corsets
—or unlaced them; and he scarcely knew how to understand
the Sultana. But seeing his hesitation, Sultanalike,
she stamped her little foot, and repeated her orders.
She did not leave him long doubtful that she was in

“Come,” said she, “what do you wait for? Is it
because you're bashful? Well! at your age! But you
needn't be, here! We know a thing or two! we've no false
modesty here, I assure you. A leg's a leg, with us. We
talk plainly, and are not the worse for it. We don't
make a fuss about shadows as long as we keep the substance;
and indeed, it's only those who have lost the substance
that do. Come, stir yourself, and there's a kiss
to begin with, by way of recompense.”

A few moments found our hero awkwardly busy with
the waist of the Sultana. While thus engaged, the
manager and Tom Nettles came in.

“That woman,” said the manager aloud, “has tired
out every member of the troupe in lacing her. She
will have her waist brought within the narrowest compass,
and she breaks her cords daily in trying to make it


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smaller. There's not a hand among us that she has
not made sore in the abominable work, and now she
takes to our visitors.”

“And why not?” said the Sultana, with the air of the
orient. “Is he not rewarded? It is not often he is
permitted to study a good model.”

“A little too round, madame,” said the manager.

“Too round!” screamed the Sultana.

“Not a bit,” said Tom Nettles, coolly interposing to
span the waist. “An exquisite union of symmetry and

“Strength!” demanded madame.

“Yes, to be sure; strength is necessary to grace, even
in a woman. It's the mistake of too many of the sex
that an air of feebleness is supposed to imply delicacy.
It is rather the reverse. I wish to see vigor with grace;
and a woman ought to seem as capable of a fine wrestle
as of a fine sentiment.”

“I've a great mind to trip your heels for that,” said
the Sultana, pertly.

“And if I am to take a fall, I should wish for no
worse embrace than yours. But I leave Barry to the
danger. He's a better wrestler than myself, and it
strikes me that his lacing begins to look much more like
hugging. Beware, Jones, or I'll tell your sweetheart.”

Barry blushed to the roots of his hair.

“Has he a sweetheart? Is he in love?” demanded
the Sultana.

“The danger is that he is in love with more than he
can manage. Yesterday he loved but one woman.
What lessons you have taught him, since that time, may
be guessed from the way he performs the present operation.
His lacing is very like embracing; and, if he
goes on at this rate, he'll be for a wrestle in earnest.”

“And if he is,” said the magician, suddenly thrusting
his head upward from the tail of the wagon, “I'll engage
that Nell can throw him, or any man in company.”

“Nell! Oh, you wretch!” cried the Sultana.
“Nell!” She was Madame Zerlina, in the bill of the


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performance. “Was ever such a monster! How he
takes a woman's name in vain! Do some of you give
him his dram, his phlegm-cutter, his antifogmatic, or
whatever else he calls it, that he may sober himself to a
civil way of speaking.”

“Ay, Nell, bring it yourself.”

The wife seized a tumbler that stood on a chest beside
her, and held it to Nettles, who filled it from the flagon
which had been brought in by the manager. She darted
away the next moment to her magician, without seeming
to remember that Barry, who, in his clumsiness, was
still busy at the strings of her bodice, was compelled
to follow after her, or lose the ends of the cord which
had been confided to his care.

“There, you!” she cried, thrusting the drink into his

“Isn't she a beauty?” said the magician, with a leer
to Barry, as he took the liquor. Barry could only
smile and simper, and look silly.

“Beauty!” said she; “too much of a beauty for you.
That's the way he flatters a woman, with Beauty! Beauty!
on his lips, said half-asleep, and his mouth opening on
the quart-pot, which alone made him waken up. You
don't talk of my beauties now, but you feel them.”

“Yes, indeed,” said Nettles, “and he'll stay feeling
them all day if you'll let him.”

“Oh, Tom!” murmured Barry with a grin.

“Don't you mind him,” said the Sultana. “Have
you done now. There!” she exclaimed, wheeling about
and grasping the unsuspecting Barry in her arms, giving
him an embrace, before releasing him, that half took
away his breath. “There, that's your reward. It isn't
often a fine woman bestows a squeeze upon her sweetheart,
and I only do it now to show you what your friend
means, when he says that the beauty of a woman means
vigor as well as grace. If you'd like to try the wrestle
after the squeeze, say the word, and I'm ready for you.”

“And I'll go a hundred on Nell against the field,”
cried the husband, from the wagon.


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“Oh, beast there, with your Nell,” cried the heroine,
indignantly. “I've done everything, I've even thrashed
him, to teach him good manners, but it's so much love
and labor thrown away.”

“But how about the wrestle? Who takes me up?”
demanded the husband. The Sultana herself looked
about her with the eye of a challenger. She was still
only dressed in part, and her fine bust and figure afforded
not a bad idea of Cleopatra. Her breasts seemed
breaking through the very partial restraints upon them,
and her arms, partly bare, were admirably white and
rounded, revealing that equal union of muscular and
flesh development which crowns the person with
strength, without lessening its beauty. By this time,
however, the admiration of Jones Barry had in some
degree given way to misgivings and apprehension. His
sense of the beauty of the woman was somewhat impaired
by his disquiet at her boldness. The privileges
to which he had been admitted had certainly shown no
warmth or feeling on her part, and, in fact, she had
treated him rather like a boy than a man. He was
awed and abashed by her manners, rather than delighted
with her charms; and the single squeeze which
she had so gratuitously bestowed upon him was quite
sufficient to satisfy him, without desiring the wrestle.
He accordingly said nothing, while Nettles, with exemplary
coolness, quietly remarked that “he, perhaps,
should have no serious objection to the trial, could he
be sure of fair play, but as he had never found that
from a woman yet, he was not disposed to incur any unnecessary

By this time one of the subordinates made his appearance,
announcing breakfast in the amphitheatre.
Nettles gallantly assisted the lady in completing her
toilet, and this affair adjusted, he gave her his arm,
and conducted her into the temple. He was followed
by Barry, who felt nothing but envy at the ease and
readiness with which his friend performed the duties of
the courtier. The equestrians played the part of hosts


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with great liberality and good-humor, and the meal lingered
for more than an hour, in which, while the cates
were various and ample, they constituted but a minor
portion of the attraction. The coolness, readiness,
great resource, experience, and anecdote of these performers
furnished an unfailing subject of wonder to
Barry. They seemed to know everything about the
world, and some of them seemed quite at home on the
subject of books. Zerlina, our Sultana, or “Nell,” as
the magician, her husband, persisted in calling her,
was quite a dabbler in literature. She was read in the
dramatic poets, and had an ambition for the stage,
which some mysterious influence prevented her from
seeking to gratify. She made frequent exhibitions, at
the entreaty of Nettles, of her powers, while reading
favorite passages, and thus increased the degree of awe
and admiration which Barry already entertained for
her. Her civilities were somewhat less free than they
had been the night before, but they were still such as
a matron might readily bestow upon a moderately grown
boy. Poor Barry, though pleased with much of this
sort of petting, was yet humbled by it! and it was with
something of a feeling of relief that he received a hint
from Nettles that it was time to depart. The troupe
were to exhibit another night at Hillabee, as the multitude,
though diminished, was still sufficiently large to
compensate the performance. There were extemporary
races throughout the day, but generally with common
horses. To these neither Barry nor Nettles greatly
inclined, and their separation from their hosts of the hippodrome
was pretty much a leave-taking of the field.
Nettles had known the manager, the magician, and the
fair Zerlina, some time before, and they parted as old
friends. The Sultana squeezed Barry's hands with a
frank earnestness, as she bade him good-by, telling him
he was a nice fellow, and she should always remember
him by his gifts, pointing to his ring and breastpin.
It was with a twinge that our hero heard this speech.
He thought sulkily of the half-maudlin tenderness of


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the night before, in which he had been beguiled of
jewels that he would prefer to see on very different
fingers. The thoughts of Nettles, in some degree, took
the same direction with his own. As they rode together
homeward, and when they had fairly emerged from contact
with the multitude, the former, with a quizzical
smile, said to Barry—

“I say, Jones, what the d—l would your sweetheart,
the fair Geraldine, have said, could she have seen
you sitting in the lap of our Nelly, eh?”

“I didn't sit in her lap, Tom; she sat in mine.”

“So much the better for the sight! What would
she have said, or what could you have said, had she
suddenly plumped in upon you when Nelly was in your
lap, her arm about your neck, and giving you that smack
of the lips, which seemed to you like wine from heaven?
You got drunk almost instantly after it. You hugged
her like a hero, until she couldn't stand it any longer,
and broke away, as if she feared some harm from her
magician husband.”

“Oh! I didn't, Tom. Now don't you be telling that
nonsense about.”

“How can I help it, Jones, my good fellow? The
joke is quite too good to be lost. For the one smack,
the moment you had tasted it, you gave her a dozen,
till she gave in and cried `'nough! 'nough!' as fervently
as the fellow whose sockets are filling fast with sand
from his enemy's fingers; and such a squeeze about the
body that she fairly heaved again, though pretty well
used to tight bracing.”

“Never, Tom; never!”

“But it's a true bill, Jones. Then, you sung a comic
song; and, in trying to get on the table for a Virginny
reel, you slipped over into the sawdust, and lay
there with a gurgle in your throat, as if you were trying
to drink and sing at the same moment. You don't
know, I suppose, who laid you out upon the benches?”

“No, Tom, I don't.”

“Who, but Nell and myself? She took your arms,


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and I your feet, and we swung you up, saying, all the
`Warn ye once, warn ye twice,
Warn ye thrice, and away,
And away, and away, ye go!'
She brought the horse-cloth and spread over you, and
the clown delivered a sermon over you, in which he
said that, though a small man, your skin and stomach
were capable of stretching to a brandy cocktail as
readily and extensively as those of any man he ever
saw; and not one of us said a word against it. You
were treated gloriously, Jones, and you were glorious;
but what would the fair Geraldine say to it all?”

“By gracious, Tom, she musn't hear of it!”

“Had she only seen you lacing the jackets! Ha!
ha! ha!”

“Tom, my dear fellow. Tom Nettles”—

“Looking for all the world like a great boy, with his
big eyes spreading at the sight of an apple-tree filled
with fruit, yet trembling to think of the steel-trap lying
quiet in the grass below. Oh! Jones, Jones, if ever
a man looked at a woman greedily, it was you, this

“Now, Tom! Tom! Don't! Never!”

“I'll swear it! You did! Jones, I'm afraid you're
a bad fellow among the women. You ought never to
think of Geraldine Foster. She, at least, ought never
to think of you. You don't deserve her. She's too
good for you. You'll make a bad husband. And I
can't think of suffering her to marry in the dark. She
must know—”

“Tom, my dear fellow. Honor bright! But, I see
you're only joking.”

“Joking, indeed! No! no! There's only one thing
that will prevent me from interfering, and that is—”
He paused.

“Eh! What?”


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“That there's no sort of use for it, as there's no sort
of danger that she'll ever marry you.”

“And why not, I wonder?”

“Why not! When you prefer to stay here at a
horserace, to seeing her home. When you let her go
off under the escort of your rivals, while you go a gander-pulling.
When the circus is more grateful to you
than her company; and when, not content with the
performances of other people, you take another man's
wife into your lap, and—”

“But, Tom, she don't know; she won't know—”

“These things are sure to leak out; and when it's
known that you gave this pretty woman your ring and
breastpin, and promised to remember her as long as you

“No, I'll be k—d if I did.”

“And I'll be k—d if you didn't!” responded the

“Tom, by the blazes, you're no friend of mine, or
you wouldn't talk so. But, I know you of old. You
only do it to worry me. You won't blab.”

“Well, suppose I don't? What chance do you stand
with the fair Geraldine when you neglect her so, and
when you have such chaps as Ran. Hammond and Miles
Henderson against you?”

“I don't care a curse for Hammond. She shows him
less favor than all the rest. She's cross to him; and,
for that matter, it don't seem to me that he cares a
curse for her.”

“Don't you believe it!”

“Well! let him come. It costs nothing, and it comes
to nothing. She don't care for him.”

“I'm not so sure of that!”

“She don't show it, at least. She's more shy of
him, by far, than she is of me or Henderson.”

“The shyness is in his favor. Was Nelly shy of you?
No, indeed! She'd kiss you in sight of fifty people.
But, you only be saucy, more than she is prepared to
suffer, and she'd as soon dirk you as drink. This very


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shyness of Geraldine Foster shows a feeling that she
wants to hide. It's the same as saying, `This man is
something to me.' He has an effect upon her, and let
him but pursue—”

“But he don't pursue.”

“He don't! You don't know Ran. Hammond; and
I tell you, Jones Barry, that if any man of you three
ever marries that girl, it's Ran. Hammond. I know
something of him, and I know something of woman, and
if he isn't already as deep in her heart as you were in
your cups last night, though without getting drunk by
it, then I'm not one of the Nettles family.”

“Well! that's speaking sure; for you are one of the
Nettles family, and make yourself known wherever you
go for a real son of the bush, if it's only by the feeling
you produce. But you don't raise my skin, Tom; for,
between us, I feel pretty sure that the game is to be

“Ah! Ha! well!”

“The mother promises me—”

“The mother! You're more likely to marry the
mother than the daughter. But it isn't the mother, exactly;
and Mrs. Foster has no such influence over her
husband's child as to say how that cat shall jump. If
ever there was a woman who had a will of her own,
it's that girl Geraldine Foster. I'm thinking that the
mother favors you; but I don't believe she can do much
for you, unless the daughter is a weaker vessel than I
think her.”

“Well! only you don't blab about this circus business,

“I don't know how I can keep in, Jones. It's too

“Oh, by gracious, Tom, you must! I'll be hanged
if I wouldn't fight my own brother, if he told upon

“Yes, but you'd hardly fight me, Jones, for you
know I'd kill you; and then you'd lose your fortune,
your sweetheart, and everything else. No! you won't


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fight me, Jones; and if you talk in that sort of way, I
shall have to come out with the story. I'll have to go
to Mrs. Foster. I'll have to say, I must see Miss Geraldine.
Then, I'll up and show her about the lap, and
the squeeze, and the kisses, and the lacing, and the—”

“Tom, stop! By gracious, you must stop. Here's
somebody coming after us!”

The conversation, thus interrupted, it is not our object
to pursue. Nettles had no other purpose in what
he said than to annoy his companion, though the opinions
which he expressed with regard to the superior
chances of Hammond in the pursuit of Geraldine Foster,
in comparison with the two competitors, were honestly
entertained. He dined that day with Barry, who kept
bachelor's hall, and who recurred to the subject after
dinner. Here again Nettles repeated his opinion. Barry
did not seem satisfied that he should do so; and, in
the course of the conversation, betrayed something of
a hostile feeling towards Hammond, which the other was
surprised that he should entertain.

“Somehow,” said he, “he crosses me at every step.
He bought that place of Wingard's, though he knew I
wanted it—”

“But didn't he want it too?”

“I suppose he did, but—”

“But you overslept yourself, having been drunk at my
house the night before, and didn't get to the sale in time.”

“Yes, true! and the fellow got it for half the money
I was willing to give.”

“More lucky for both of you, perhaps.”

“Then he gives Miles Henderson this bloody mare,
that takes `Geraldine' off her heels—”

“But you bought `Geraldine' after he had given
`Sorella' to Miles—”

“That's true; but he advises him to run her, and tells
him how to do it.”

“He did one and not the other, and did only what
any other might have done, and nobody have cause to


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be angry. The truth is, Jones, you are in too bad a
humor to do Ran. Hammond justice.”

“And if, as you say, he stands the only chance with
Geraldine Foster, sha'n't I have good cause to be in a
bad humor? Now, you see, though you prove to me
that all his influence upon my successes comes up naturally
enough, yet, somehow, when you find a man
always in your way—taking the start of you himself—
helping his friends to do so—crossing you at this, and
beating you at that—the worse from his not trying to
do so; it looks as if he were your born enemy. You
can't help feeling as if he was. But, I tell you, I'll not
stand much more crossing; and some of these days, if
things get worse, Ran. Hammond and Jones Barry will
have to ask the question, before witnesses, which is the
better man.”

“Pshaw! pshaw! You haven't drank quite enough,
Jones, for a sensible judgment in this matter. A few
glasses more will give you the right pitch for thinking.
Now, let me tell you, I won't have you make a judy of
yourself in this fashion. Hammond's a man whom
you'll do well to have no quarrel with. He's an ugly
customer. He'll be slow to take his gripe—won't do it,
as long as he can decently help it; but when he does,
he takes hold like a bulldog, and never lets go till his
teeth meet in the flesh. You're a fool, Barry. You
have fortune, and good liquors; enjoy yourself in all
sorts of ways; keep blooded horses and run races; a
fine parcel of gamebirds, and enjoy the cockpit like the
Napoleon of Mexico. You keep the best of wines, and
are not afraid to drink them; you can ride, run, and
fight, and enjoy yourself in all three ways, in one day—
now with a goose, and now with a clown; and have, besides,
a devilish keen eye for the women, so that you'll
be thinking of one seven miles off, while another's in
your lap.”

“No more of that, Tom; pass the bottle; and if you
say so, we'll send out for a few larks and make a night
of it.”

“Agreed; a night of it.”