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Page 127


Dear Uncle Joshua:—I've got it at last, as true as you're
alive, and now I don't keer a snap for the fattest of 'em. I'll
teach them are young chaps down to Portland that used to poke
fun at me so because I didn't get in to be Governor, that they
must carry a better tongue in their heads, or they'll find out
who they are talking to. I guess they'll find out by and by it
won't be healthy for 'em to poke fun at an officer of my rank.
And as for Jemime Parsons, that married the schoolmaster
winter before last, when she had promised as fair as could be
that she would have me, she may go to grass for what I keer;
I wouldn't have her now no more than I'd have a Virginny
nigger. And I guess when she comes to see me with my regimentals
on she'll feel sorry enough, and wish her cake was
dough again. Now she's tied down to that clodpole of a
schoolmaster, that wasn't fit for a schoolmaster neither, for he
has had to go to hoeing potatoes for a living, and much as
ever he can get potatoes enough to keep 'em from starving,
when if she had only done as she had promised, she might
now be the wife of Captain Jack Downing, of the United


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States Army. But let her go; as I said afore, I don't care a
snap for her or all old White's cattle. I'll tell you what 'tis,
uncle, I feel about right now. It seems to me I could foot it
home in two days, for my feet never felt half so light before.
There's nothing like trying, in this world, uncle; anybody that
tries can be something or other, if he don't get discouraged
too soon. When I came on here, you know, I expected to get
one of the great Secretaries' offices; but the good old President
told me they had got him into such a hobble about them
are offices that he couldn't give me one of 'em if he was to die.
But he treated me like a gentleman, and I shall always vote
for him as long as I live, and I told him so. And when he
found out that I was a true genuine Republikan, says he,
“Mr. Downing, you must be patient, and I'll bear you in mind,
and do something for you the very first chance. And you may
depend upon it, Mr. Downing,” he added with a good deal of
earnestness, “I never desert my friends, let that lying Stephen
Simpson, of Philadelphy, say what he will about it—a
good-for-nothing, ungrateful dog.” And he fetched a stomp
with his foot, and his eyes kind of flashed so fiery that I
couldn't help starting back, for I didn't know but he was
going to knock me over. But he looked pleasant again in a
minute, and took me by the hand, and now, says he, “Mr.
Downing, I give you my honor that I'll do something for you
as soon as I possibly can.” I told him I hoped he would be as
spry as he could about it, for I had but jest ninepence left,
and I didn't know how I should get along very well, in a
strange place, too. But he told me never to mind that at all;
I might come and eat my meals at his house whenever I'd a
mind to or he would be bondsman for my board where I put


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[Description: 688EAF. Page 129. In-line image. A man sits at a table with a spoon in his right hand poised over a bowl. A young boy stands by the table relaying a message to the man. The boy's left hand is onthe doorknob.]
up. So I've worked along from that time to this, nearly four
months, as well as I could—sometimes getting a little job of
garden-work, and sometimes getting a little wood to saw, and
so on, nearly enough to pay my expenses. I used to call and
see the President once in a while. and he always told me I
must be patient and keep up a good heart—the world wasn't
made in one day—and something would turn up for me by and
by. But fact, after digging and sawing, and waiting four
months, my patience got most wore out, and I was jest upon
the point of giving up the chase, and starting off for Downingville


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with the intention of retiring to private life, when,
last night, about seven o'clock, as I sot eating a bowl of
bread and milk for my supper, a boy knocked at the door and
wanted to see Mr. Downing. So they brought him into the
room where I was, and says he, “Mr. Downing, the President
wants to see you for something very particular, right away
this evening.” My heart almost jump'd right up in my mouth.
My spoon dropt out of my hand, and to eat another mouthful
I couldn't if I was to starve. I flew round, and washed my
face and hands, and combed my head, and brushed up as well
as I could, and should have looked tolerable spruce if it
hadn't been for an unlucky hole in the knee of my trouses.
What to do I did not know. It made me feel bad enough I
can tell you. The woman where I boarded said she would
mend them for me if I would take them off, but it would take
her till about nine o'clock, and the President was waiting for
me, and there 'twas. Such a hobble I never was in before.
But this woman is a kind, good creature as ever was; she
boards me for four and sixpence a week, considering that I
split wood for her, and bring water, and do all sich kind of
chores. And she always had some contrivance to get out of
every difficulty; and so she handed me a neat little pocket
handkerchief and told me to tie that round my knee. Being
thus rigged out at last, I started off as fast as I could go for
the President's.

When I went into his room the old gentleman was sitting
by a table with his spectacles on, and two great lamps burning
before him, and a bundle of letters and papers in his hand.
He started up and took me by the hand, and says he, “good
evening, Mr. Downing, I'm very glad to see you; you are the


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very man I want now, above all others in the world. But
now is this,” says he, looking at my knee; “not lame, I hope?
That would be a most unfortunate thing in this critical moment.
It would knock my plan in the head at once.” I felt
kind of blue, and I guess I blushed a little; but I turned it
off as well as I could; I told him I wasn't lame at all; it
was nothing but a slight scrach, and by to-morrow morning I
should be as well as ever I was in my life. “Well then,”
says he, “Mr. Downing, sit down here and see what I have
got to tell you.” The old gentleman set himself back in his
chair and pushed his spectacles up on his forehead and held up
the letter in his hand, and says he, “Mr. Downing, here is a
letter from Governor Smith, of Maine, and now, Sir, I've got
something for you to do. You see now that I was sincere
when I told you if you would be patient and stick to the Republikan
text, I would look out for you one of these days. I'm
always true to my friends; that lying Stephen Simpson might
have had an office before now if he had behaved himself.”

“Well, dear Sir,” said I, for I felt in such a pucker to know
what I was going to get that I couldn't stand it any longer,
so says I, “what sort of business is it you've got for me
to do?” Says he “Mr. Downing, I take it you are a man of
courage; I have always thought so ever since you faced Mr.
Eaton so boldly on Mr. Ingham's door-steps. Tho' I was sorry
your courage was not displayed in a better cause, for that
Ingham is a rascal after all.” I told him as for courage I believed
I had some of the stuff about me when there was any
occasion for it, and that I never would stand by and see anybody
abused. “Well,” says he, “we must come to the point,
for the business requires haste. Governor Smith writes me


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that there are four of your fellow-citizens of Maine in a British
jail at Fredericton, who have been taken from their farms by
British constables and sheriffs and other officers and carried
off by force to prison.”

By this time my very hair begun to curl, I felt so mad, and
I couldn't help jumping up and smiting my fists together, and
saying pretty hard things about the British.

“Well,” says the President, “I like your spunk, Mr. Downing;
you're jest the man I want in this business. I'm going
to give you a captain's commission in the United States army,
and you must go down there and set that business right at
Madawaska. You must go to Maine and raise a company of
volunteers as quick as possible; tell 'em I'll see 'em paid;
and you must march down to Fredericton and demand the
prisoners, and if they are not given up you must force the
jail, and if the British make any resistance you must fire
upon them and bring the prisoners off at some rate or other.
Then write me and let me know how affairs stand, and I'll
give you further orders. At any rate you must see that the
rights of Maine are well protected, for that State has come
round so in my favor since last year I'm determined to do
everything I can for them; I tell you, Mr. Downing, I never
desert my friends.”

So, after he gave me the rest of my orders and my commission,
and a pocket full of money, and told me to be brave and
if I wanted anything to let him know, he bid me good night,
and I went home. But I couldn't sleep a wink all night. I
was up before day-light this morning, and I've got two
women to work for me to-day fixing up my clothes, and I shall
be ready to start to-morrow morning. I want you to keep


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this matter pretty still till I get there, except that you may
let cousin Ephraim know it and get him to volunteer some of
the Downingville boys for my company. I want to get them
pretty much all there if I can, for I know what sort of stuff
the Downingville boys are made of, and shall know what I've
got to depend upon.

In haste, your loving neffu,