University of Virginia Library


Page 201


We must premise that, when dispatched by Mrs.
Foster in search of Geraldine, Jones Barry did not
proceed directly upon his mission. He was diverted
from this object by his friend Tom Nettles, who appeared
to have been seeking, and who, seizing him by
the arm, drew him to the rear of the building with a
look and manner of very mysterious confidence.

“Jones,” said he, “champagne is an excellent creature,
and so is sherry. I like them very well in their
way. But they seem to me, in comparison with our
good old Georgia drinks, like the dessert to the solid
feast. The nuts are good, the raisins, cakes, and almonds;
but, after all, my boy, give me a genuine haunch
of venison, a good smoking ham, and a fat turkey, or a
pair of ducks. So with these wines. I acknowledge
champagne to be a fiery, well-bred gentleman; but he
is too uniformly genteel and delicate. I want more
solid argument than he can give me, and so I turn,
when I can, to a sober whiskey-punch, a brandy cocktail,
or a peach or apple toddy.”

“But you can't get any of them here,” said Barry,

“Can't I? Leave Tom Nettles alone for finding out
where the weasel sleeps. This fellow Abram, who
serves as a sort of major-domo in the widow's household—By
the way, Jones, the widow would suit you
better than the daughter; she's a better armfull. Don't
you think so?”

“She looks well.”

“Ay, and would wear well, old fellow.”


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“She would, indeed.”

“Think of it. It's worth a thought.”

“It's too late now.”

“What! are you engaged to the daughter?”

“I suppose you may say so. It's as good as that.
I've handed in the letter.”

“P-h-e-w! Don't halloo till you're out of the wood.”

“But to the liquor. Abram—”

“Oh, Abram: yes! Well, that Abram's a fellow
after one's own heart; and, whether you marry the
daughter or the widow, I hope you'll give him to me.
Feeling the want of the stronger spirit, I said to him:
`Abram, this is a pleasant fellow, this champagne, to
say a word to at coming and at parting, but he don't
seem to answer so well through a long visit. Now,
haven't you something in the shape of a plain, homely,
sensible old Georgia drink, that won't foam, and hiss,
and sparkle when you speak to it?' Upon which the
fellow whispers to me: `Old master had a jimmyjohn
of mighty fine peach in the garret, and, since he's gone,
we never uses it.' `Abram,' says I, `your master was
a sensible man when alive, and I hope was sensible
enough when he died to go to a place of good spirits.
God bless him, and us. Abram, my lad, can you get
us a look at that jimmyjohn?' ”

“Well?” demanded Barry, somewhat eagerly.

“Well! Here it is, and here's Abram, and here's
a few fellows like yourself, ready to take a toss at the

They had now reached an apartment in the basement
of the building, where a few rude tables sustained a
world of crockery, cups, plates, and glasses, such as had
already been used above stairs. On one of these tables
stood the ancient demijohn, covered with antique dust
and honoring cobwebs. Honey, water, cups, and
tumblers were in readiness, and nothing was to be done
but drink. Even the beverage—a sufficient quantity—
had been mixed in anticipation by the judicious Nettles,
and the beaker, that was thrust into Barry's grasp,


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glittered to the brim, with equal strength and sweetness.
In the taste of the sweet, he did not recognize
the potency and excess of the strength, and it was with
a royal mind that he now broke away from the group
of drinkers to continue his search after Geraldine. We
have seen at what moment and under what circumstances
he found her. As he left Nettles and his
companions, a loud laugh attested the conspiracy.

“He has it,” cried Nettles.

“A most mortal shot,” said Dick.

“It'll floor him, sure,” said Ned.

“'Twould floor a bullock,” muttered Peter; and,
with these calculations, they all scattered in pursuit of
their victim, with a view to watching the results.

Meanwhile, unsuspicious of danger, and with a confidence
in himself gradually increasing as the peach
began to “blossom” in his veins, Jones Barry led his
partner triumphantly to the hall, where the dancers
were rapidly assembling from all quarters. The company
had begun to thin; the hour was becoming late;
the old people had pretty much departed, except those
inveterate appetizers who will wait through the tedious
rounds of dancing in which they do not share, in order
to partake of the supper, in which they never fail to
insist upon something more than their share. It is not
every day, with these, that Paddy kills his favorite
cow, and they make the most of the event when he
does. There they sat or stood about the room, waiting
anxiously the close of the last cotillon. Meanwhile,
the music sounded merrily, and the dancers
began to vault and whirl. Jones Barry and Geraldine
found themselves confronted by Tom Nettles and Polly
Ewbanks—Polly being the most portly of all the fair
people assembled—as ignorant of the dance as a horse,
and as clumsy as an elephant. But Polly had a rather
pretty face, and though she felt doubtful of the sort of
display which her legs would make, she was willing to
peril them rather than lose the chance of a market for
her face. With rosy red cheeks, and a rolling, swimming


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motion, like a great Dutch galliot in a heavy,
swelling sea, Polly went to and fro, very imperfectly
steadied by the arm, and hand, and counsels of her
partner. “Why the deuce,” was the thought of Barry,
“did Tom Nettles choose such a woman for his partner,
when so many so much more comely and compatible
could be had?” But Tom had his reasons. There was
mischief in his eye, only perceptible, however, to his
comrades, one of whom was in the same set with our
couple, while the others were eagerly and anxiously
looking on. But Jones Barry had neither the time,
nor was he in the mood, to make reflections. The
peach began to poach upon the territories of his brain.
He leaped high, he vaulted, whirled, wheeled, clapped
his hands, and at length seemed about to reach that condition
of extase in which certain virgins under religious
inspiration have attained, by which they can stand upon
the air and dance upon nothing, without the aid of any
unseemly ornaments about the neck. Geraldine began
to be disquieted; but her situation admitted of no extrication.
She felt its annoyances the more as she
beheld, at a little distance, the grave, sedate, and circumspect
eye of Randall Hammond fixed upon the
proceedings. But the confusion grew. First, there
was some little awkwardness in Tom Nettles himself.
He wheeled to the right when he should have gone left,
and when the figure called him to cross over, he sent
his partner into the arena. She was constantly blundering;
but this Jones Barry was now becoming too
happy to perceive. Though a very fair dancer himself,
his errors soon became apparent. Yet he was correcting
Nettles all the while.

“Wrong, Tom; to the right about! Now we go!
How it blazes! Whoop! She flies! Glorious, Tom;
eh?” and he strove, while speaking, to bestow a significant
look with those eyes which were momently becoming
more and more small. Round he went, whirling
his partner with him. Round went Tom Nettles, with
his nearly round partner, her enormous sides seeming to


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sweep and force back, at the same moment, every object
of the circle.

“Wrong, Mr. Barry,” said Geraldine, as he darted
forward with a bound after the leviathan beauty.

“Not a bit of it!” he cried, with a hiccough.

“Here!” said Nettles to Polly Ewbanks.

“There!” he cried, in the next moment.

“Now!” he muttered, as he wheeled her forward.

“Here!” as he whirled her back. Her face was as
red as the sun at setting, after a hard day's travel in
hot weather. Her breath came and went without leaving
her very sure of its coming. Barry grew more and
more happy; made all sorts of movements, to all points
of the compass; and, at length, while all was buzz, and
bustle, and confusion, a terrible concussion was heard.
He had come in conflict with Polly, in one of his erratic
moments, and the event was precisely such as might be
anticipated from the encounter of the earth with the
tail of the great comet. It was more than a comet's
tail, comparatively speaking, that which overthrew
Jones Barry; but down he went, his legs passing completely
from under him, and between the uplifted feet
of Polly, effecting that catastrophe which the mere
jostle with him had not occasioned. Down she went
also, in the midst of the ring, which spread out on all
sides to make the space which her dimensions rendered
necessary, and with a squall that shook the house to
its centre. There was no describing the scene—the
terror, the screams, the disquiet.

“Back to back!” cried Barry, now fairly drunk, and
sending out his legs as well as he could, with their
movements somewhat cramped by the pile which the
fair Polly still continued to present, as a sort of fortress
against all his efforts.

“Help me up, for mercy's sake!” was the imploring
entreaty of the fat unfortunate. Nettles tried honestly
to do so, but his laughter deprived him of all his
strength; and it was left for Randall Hammond; who,
at the first signal of tumult, extricated Geraldine from


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the ring, to do this friendly office for the confounded
maiden, whose hurts and alarm had not made her forgetful
and indifferent to the awkward exhibition which
she had made, particularly in falling, an event rendered
utterly unavoidable from the fact that Barry's feet
came between her legs at the moment when she was
whirling upon a single pin. The dance broke up in the
rarest confusion, Barry being borne out by Nettles,
with the assistance of some other of the conspirators;
having hurt his head, as it was fabled, with striking
against the floor. But the blow came from the “peach”
out of that antique “jimmyjohn,” which Abram had
so unwisely discovered among his old master's treasures.
The unfortunate gallant was taken to an outhouse, and
snugly put to sleep upon a straw heap; his last intelligible
words being: “Back to back! back to back, Miss