The Reunion

In the center of one of the most picturesque valleys in the heart of
Pennsylvania lies the village and at one end of its single street stands
the store. On the broad porch of this homely and ancient edifice there is
a long oak bench, rough, and hacked in countless places by the knives of
many generations of loungers. From this bench, looking northward across
an expanse of meadows, a view is had of a low, green ridge, dotted here
and there with white farm buildings. Behind that rise the mountains,
along whose sides on bright days play the fanciful shadows of the clouds.
Close by the store is the rumbling mill, and beyond it runs the creek,
spanned by a wooden bridge whose planking now and then resounds with
the beat of horses’ hoofs, so that it adds its music to the roar of the
mill-wheels and ring of the anvil in the blacksmith shop across the
stream.

One July day the stage rattled over the bridge, past the mill and drew up
at the store. The G. A. R. Man, the only passenger, climbed out of the
lumbering vehicle, dragging after him a shapeless, battered carpet-bag.
He limped up the steps in the wake of the driver, who was helping the
Storekeeper with the mail-pouch, and when on the porch stopped and nodded
a greeting to the men who were sitting on the bench kicking their heels
together–the Patriarch, the School Teacher, the Miller, the Tinsmith
and the Chronic Loafer. The loungers gazed solemnly at the new arrival;
at his broad-brimmed, black slouch hat, which though drawn down over his
left temple did not hide the end of a band of court-plaster; at his blue
coat, two of its brass buttons missing; at his trousers, in which there
were several rents that had been clumsily sewed together.

The silence was broken by the School Teacher, who remarked with a
contemptuous curl of the nose, “So you’ve got home from Gettysburg, have
you? From your appearance one would judge that you had come from a battle
instead of a reunion.”

“Huh! A good un–a good un!”

All eyes were turned toward the end of the bench, where sat the Chronic
Loafer. He was a tall, thin, loose-jointed man. Thick, untrimmed locks
of tawny hair fell from beneath his ragged, straw hat, framing a face
whose most prominent features were a pair of deep-set, dull blue eyes,
two sharp, protruding cheek-bones and a week’s growth of red beard. His
attire was simple in the extreme. It consisted of a blue striped, hickory
shirt, at the neck-band of which glistened a large, white china button,
which buttoned nothing, but served solely as an ornament, since no collar
had ever embraced the thin, brown neck above it. A piece of heavy twine
running over the left shoulder and down across the chest supported a pair
of faded, brown overalls, which were adorned at the right knee by a large
patch of white cotton. He was sitting in a heap. His head seemed to join
his body somewhere in the region of his heart. His bare left foot rested
on his right knee and his left knee was encircled by his long arms.

“A good un!” he cried again.

Then he suddenly uncoiled himself, throwing back his head until it struck
the wall behind him, and swung his legs wildly to and fro.

“Well, what air you so tickled about now?” growled the G. A. R. Man.

“I was jest a-thinkin’ that you’d never come outen no battle lookin’ like
that,” drawled the Loafer.

He nudged the Miller with his elbow and winked at the Teacher. Forthwith
the three broke into loud fits of laughter.

The Patriarch pounded his hickory stick vigorously on the floor, pulled
his heavy platinum rimmed spectacles down to the tip of his nose and over
their tops gazed in stern disapproval.

“Boys, boys,” he said, “no joshing. It ain’t right to josh.”

“True–true,” said the Loafer. He had wrapped himself up again and was
in repose. “My pap allus use to say, ‘A leetle joshin’ now an’ then is
relished be the wisest men–that is, ef they hain’t the fellys what’s
bein’ joshed.’”

The G. A. R. Man had been leaning uneasily against a pillar. On this
amicable speech from his chief tormenter, the frown that had been playing
over his face gave way to a broad grin, three white teeth glistening in
the open space between his stubby mustache and beard.

“Yes,” he said, “I hev come home afore my ’scursion ticket expired.” He
removed his hat and disclosed a great patch of plaster on his forehead.
“Ye see Gettysburg was a sight hotter fer me yesterday than in ’63. But
I’ve got to the eend o’ my story.”

“So that same old yarn you’ve ben tellin’ at every camp-fire sence the
war is finished at last. That’s a blessin’!” cried the Miller.

“I never knowd you was in the war. I thot you jest drawed a pension,”
interrupted the Loafer.

The veteran did not heed these jibes but fixed himself comfortably on
the upturned end of his carpet-bag.

“Teacher, I’ve never seen you at any of our camp-fires,” he began.
“Consekently the eend o’ my story won’t do you no good ’less you knows
the first part. So I’ll tell you ’bout my experience at the battle o’
Gettysburg an’ then explain my second fight there. I was in the war
bespite the insinooations o’ them ez was settin’ on that same bench
in the day o’ the nation’s danger. I served as a corporal in the
Two-hundred-and-ninety-fifth Pennsylwany Wolunteers an’ was honorable
discharged in ’63.”

“Fer which discharge he gits his pension,” the Loafer ventured.

“That ain’t so. I cot malary an’ several other complaints in the
Wilterness that henders me workin’ steady. It was no wonder, either, fer
our retchment was allus fightin’. We was knowd ez the Bloody Pennsylwany
retchment, fer we’d ben in every battle from Bull Run on, an’ hed had
some wery desp’rate engagements. ’Henever they was any chargin’ to be
done, we done it; ef they was a fylorn hope, we was on it; ef they was
a breastwork to be tuk, we tuk it. You uns can imagine that be the eend
o’ two years sech work, we was pretty bad cut up. ’Hen the army chased
the rebels up inter this state we was with it, but afore the fight at
Gettysburg it was concided that sence they wasn’t many of us, we’d better
be put to guardin’ baggage wagons. That was a kind o’ work that didn’t
take many men, but required fighters in caset the enemy give the boys in
front a slip an’ sneaked een on our rear.”

The School Teacher coughed learnedly and raised a hand to indicate that
he had something to say. Having secured the floor, he began: “When Darius
the First invaded Europe he had so many women, children and baggage
wagons in his train that—-”

“See here,” cried the Patriarch, testily. “Dar’us was afore my time, I
allow. We don’t care two snaps o’ a ram’s tail ’bout Dar’us. We wants to
know ’bout them bloody Pennsylwanians.”

The pedagogue shook his head in condemnation of the ignorance of his
companions, but allowed the G. A. R. Man to proceed.

“Durin’ the first day’s engagement our retchment, with a couple of
others, an’ the trains, was ’bout three mile ahint Cemetary Hill, but on
the next mornin’ we was ordered back twenty mile. It was hard to hev to
drive off inter the country ’hen the boys was hevin’ it hot bangin’ away
at the enemy, but them was orders, an’ a soldier allus obeys orders.

“The fightin’ begin airly that day. We got the wagons a-goin’ afore
sun-up, but it wasn’t long tell we could hear the roar o’ the guns, an’
see the smoke risin’ in clouds an’ then settlin’ down over the country.
We felt pretty blue, too, ez we went trampin’ along, fer the wounded an’
stragglers was faster ’an we. They’d come hobblin’ up with bad news,
sayin’ how the boys was bein’ cut up along the Emmettsburg road, an’
how we’d better move faster, ez the army was losin’ an’ the rebels ’ud
soon be een on us. Then they’d hobble away agin. Them wasn’t our only
troubles, either. The mules was behavin’ mean an’ cuttin’ up capers, an’
the wagons was breakin’ down. Then we hed to be continual watchin’ fer
them Confederate cavalry we was expectin’ was a-goin’ to pounce down on
us.

“Evenin’ come, an’ we lay to fer the night. The fires was started, an’
the coffee set a-boilin’, an’ we had a chancet to rest a while. The
wounded an’ the stragglers that jest filled the country kep’ comin’ in
all the time, sometim’s alone, sometim’s in twos an’ threes, some with
their arms tied up in all sorts o’ queer ways, or hobblin’ on sticks, or
with their heads bandaged; about the miserablest lot o’ men I ever see.
The noise of the fight stopped, an’ everything was quiet an’ peaceful
like nawthin’ hed ben happenin’. The quiet an’ the dark an’ the fear we
was goin’ to meet the enemy at any minute made it mighty onpleasant, an’
what with the stories them wounded fellys give us, we didn’t rest wery
easy.

“I went out on the picket line at ten o’clock. Seemed I hedn’t ben there
an hour tell I made out the dark figure of a man comin’ th’oo the fiel’s
wery slow like. Me an’ the fellys with me watched sharp. Sudden the man
stopped, hesitated like an’ sank down in a heap. Then he picked himself
up an’ come staggerin’ on. He couldn’t ’a’ ben more’n fifty yards away
’hen he th’owed up his hands an’ pitched for’a’d on his face. Me an’ me
buddy run out an’ carried him inter the fire. But it wasn’t no uset. He
was dead.




“They was a bullet wound in his shoulder, an’ his clothes was soaked
with blood that hed ben drippin’, drippin’ tell he fell the last time. I
opened his coat, an’ in his pocket foun’ a letter, stamped, an’ directed
apparent to his wife–that was all to tell who he was. So I went back to
me post thinkin’ no more of it an’ never noticin’ that that man’s coat
’ud ’a’ fit two of him.

“Mornin’ come, an’ the firin’ begin over toward Gettysburg. We could see
the smoke risin’ agin an’ hear the big guns bellerin’ tell the ground
beneath our feet seemed to swing up an’ down. I tell you uns that was a
grand scene. We was awful excited, fer we knowd the first two days hed
gone agin us, an’ more an’ more stragglers an’ wounded come limpin’ back,
all with bad news. I was gittin’ nervous, thinkin’ an’ thinkin’ over it,
an’ wishin’ I was where the fun was. Then I concided mebbe I wasn’t so
bad off, fer I might ’a’ been killed like the poor felly I seen the night
before, an’ in thinkin’ o’ the man I remembered the letter an’ got it
out. I didn’t ’tend to open it, but final I thot it wasn’t safe to go
mailin’ letters ’thout knowin’ jest what was in ’em, so I read it.

“The letter was wrote on a piece o’ wrappin’ paper in an awful bad
handwrite, but ’hen I got th’oo it I set plumb down an’ cried like a
chil’. It was from John Parker to his wife Mary, livin’ somewhere out in
western Pennsylwany. He begin be mentionin’ how we was on the eve of a
big fight an’ how he ’tended to do his duty even ef it come to fallin’
at his post. It was hard, he sayd, but he knowd she’d ruther hev no
husban’ than a coward. He was allus thinkin’ o’ her an’ the baby he’d
never seen, but felt satisfaction in knowin’ they was well fixed. It was
sorrerful, he continyerd, that she was like to be a widdy so young, an’
he wasn’t goin’ to be mean about it. He allus knowd, he sayd, how she’d
hed a hankerin’ after young Silas Quincy ’fore she tuk him. Ef he fell,
he thot she’d better merry Silas ’hen she’d recovered from the ’fects o’
his goin’. He ended up with a lot o’ last ‘good-bys’ an’ talk about duty
to his country.

“Right then an’ there I set down an’ wrote that poor woman a few lines
tellin’ how I’d foun’ the letter in her dead husban’s pocket. I was
goin’ to quit at that, but I concided it ’ud be nice to add somethin’
consolin’, so I told how we’d foun’ him on the fiel’ o’ battle, face to
the enemy, an’ how his last words was fer her an’ the baby. That day we
won the fight, an’ the next I mailed Mrs. Parker her letter. It seemed
about the plum blamedest, saddest thing I ever hed to do with.”

“I’ve allus ben cur’ous ’bout that widdy, too,” the Chronic Loafer
remarked.

The Teacher cleared his throat and recited:

“Now night her course began, and over heaven
Inducing darkness grateful truce imposed,
And silence on the odious din of war;
Under her cloud—-”

“No poetry jist yet, Teacher,” said the veteran. “Wait tell you hear the
sekal o’ the story.”

“Yes, let’s hev somethin’ new,” growled the Miller.

Having silenced the pedagogue, the G. A. R. Man resumed his narrative.

“I never heard no more o’ Widdy Parker tell last night, an’ then it come
most sudden. Our retchment hed a reunion on the fiel’ this year, you
know, an’ on Monday I went back to Gettysburg fer the first time sence I
was honorable discharged. The boys was all there, what’s left o’ ’em, an’
we jest hed a splendid time wisitin’ the monyments an’ talkin’ over the
days back in ’63. There was my old tent-mate, Sam Thomas, on one leg,
an’ Jim Luckenbach, who was near tuk be yaller janders afore Petersburg.
There was the colonel, growed old an’ near blind, an’ our captain an’ a
hundred odd others.

“Well, last night we was a lot of us a-settin’ in the hotel tellin’
stories. It come my turn an’ I told about the dead soldier’s letter. A
big felly in a unyform hed ben leanin’ agin the bar watchin’ us. ’Hen
I begin he pricked up his ears a leetle. Ez I got furder an’ furder he
seemed to git more an’ more interested, I noticed. By an’ by I seen he
was becomin’ red an’ oneasy, an’ final ’hen I’d finished he walks acrosst
the room to where we was settin’ an’ stands there starin’ at me, never
sayin’ nawthin’.

“A minute passed. I sais, sais I, ‘Well, comrade, what air you starin’ so
fer?’

“Sais he, ‘That letter was fer Mary Parker?’

“‘True,’ sais I, surprised.

“‘Dead sure?’ sais he.

“‘Sure,’ sais I.

“Then he shakes his fist an’ yells, ‘I’ve ’tended most every reunion here
sence the war hopin’ to meet the idjet that sent that letter to my wife
an’ wrote that foolishness ’bout findin’ my dead body. After twenty-five
years I’ve foun’ you!’

“He pulls off his coat. The boys all jumps up.

“I, half skeert to death, cries, ‘But you ain’t the dead man!’

“‘Dead,’ he yells. ‘Never ben near it. Nor did I ’tend to hev every blame
fool in the army mailin’ my letters nuther. Because you finds a man with
my coat on, that hain’t no reason he’s me. I was gittin’ to the rear with
orders ez lively ez a cricket an’ th’owed off that coat jest because it
was warm runnin’.’

“‘Hen I seen what I’d done I grabs his arm, I was so excited, an’ cries,
‘Did she merry Silas Quincy?’

“‘It wasn’t your fault she didn’t,’ he sais, deliberate like, rollin’
up his sleeves. ‘I got home two days after the letter an’ stopped the
weddin’ party on their way to church.’”

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1S/C6H2BrCl2F/c7-3-1-4(8)6(10)5(9)2-3/h1-2H

Bustles!–what are bustles? Ay, reader, fair reader, you may well ask
that question. But some of your sex at least know the meaning of the
word, and the use of the article it designates, sufficiently well,
though, thank heaven! there are many thousands of my countrywomen who are
as yet ignorant of both, and indeed to whom such knowledge would be quite
useless. Would that I were in equally innocent ignorance! Not, reader,
that I am of the feminine gender, and use the article in question; but my
knowledge of its mysterious uses, and the various materials of which it
is composed, has been the ruin of me. I will have inscribed on my tomb,
“Here lies a man who was killed by a bustle!”

But before I detail the circumstances of my unhappy fate, it will perhaps
be proper to give a description of the article itself which has been the
cause of my undoing. Well, then, a bustle is…

But the editor will perhaps object to this description as being too
distinct and graphic. If so, then here goes for another less laboured and
more characteristically mysterious.

A bustle is an article used by ladies to take from their form the
character of the Venus of the Greeks, and impart to it that of the Venus
of the Hottentots!

That ladies should have a taste so singular, may appear incredible; but
there is no accounting for tastes, and I know to my cost that the fact is
indisputable.

I made the discovery a few years since, and up to that time I had always
borne the character of a sage, sedate, and promising young man–one
likely to get on in the world by my exertions, and therefore sure to be
helped by my friends. I was even, I flatter myself, a favourite with the
fair sex too; and justly so, for I was their most ardent admirer; and
there was one most lovely creature among them whom I had fondly hoped
to have made my own. But, alas! how vain and visionary are our hopes of
human happiness: such hopes with me have fled for ever! As I said before,
I am a ruined man, and all in consequence of ladies’ bustles.

In an unlucky hour I was in a ball-room, seated at a little distance
from my fair one–my eyes watching her every air and look, my ears
catching every sound of her sweet voice–when I heard her complain to a
female friend, in tones of the softest whispering music, that she was
oppressed with the heat of the place. “My dear,” her friend replied,
“it must be the effect of your bustle. What do you stuff it with?”
“Hair–horse-hair,” was the reply. “Hair!–mercy on us!” says her friend,
“it is no wonder you are oppressed–that’s a _hot-and-hot_ material
truly. Why, you should do as I do–you do not see me fainting; and the
reason is, that I stuff my bustle with hay–new hay!”

I heard no more, for the ladies, supposing from my eyes that I was a
listener, changed the topic of conversation, though indeed it was not
necessary, for at the time I had not the slightest notion of what they
meant. Time, however, passed on most favourably to my wishes–another
month, and I should have called my Catherine my own. She was on a visit
to my sister, and I had every opportunity to make myself agreeable. We
sang together, we talked together, and we danced together. All this would
have been very well, but unfortunately we also walked together. It was
on the last time we ever did so that the circumstance occurred which I
have now to relate, and which gave the first death-blow to my hopes of
happiness. We were crossing Carlisle-bridge, her dear arm linked in mine,
when we chanced to meet a female friend; and wishing to have a little
chat with her without incommoding the passengers, we got to the edge of
the flag-way, near which at the time there was standing an old white
horse, totally blind. He was a quiet-looking animal, and none of us could
have supposed from his physiognomy that he had any savage propensity in
his nature. But imagine my astonishment and horror when I suddenly heard
my charmer give a scream that pierced me to the very heart!–and when I
perceived that this atrocious old blind brute, having slowly and slyly
swayed his head round, caught the–how shall I describe it?–caught my
Catherine–really I can’t say how–but he caught her; and before I could
extricate her from his jaws, he made a reef in her garments such as lady
never suffered. Silk gown, petticoat, bustle–everything, in fact, gave
way, and left an opening–a chasm–an exposure, that may perhaps be
imagined, but cannot be described.[1]

As rapidly as I could, of course, I got my fair one into a jarvy, and
hurried home, the truth gradually opening in my mind as to the cause
of the disaster–it was, that the blind horse, hungry brute, had been
attracted by the smell of my Catherine’s bustle, made of hay–new hay!

Catherine was never the same to me afterwards–she took the most
invincible dislike to walk with me, or rather, perhaps, to be seen in
the streets with me. But matters were not yet come to the worst, and I
had indulged in hopes that she would yet be mine. I had however taken a
deep aversion to bustles, and even determined to wage war upon them to
the best of my ability. In this spirit, a few days after, I determined to
wreak my vengeance on my sister’s bustle, for I found by this time that
she too was emulous of being a Hottentot beauty. Accordingly, having to
accompany her and my intended wife to a ball, I stole into my sister’s
room in the course of the evening before she went into it to dress,
and pouncing upon her hated bustle, which lay on her toilet table, I
inflicted a cut on it with my penknife, and retired. But what a mistake
did I make! Alas, it was not my sister’s bustle, but my Catherine’s!
However, we went to the ball, and for a time all went smoothly on. I
took out my Catherine as a partner in the dance; but imagine my horror
when I perceived her gradually becoming thinner and thinner–losing her
_enbonpoint_–as she danced; and, worse than that, that every movement
which she described in the figure–the ladies’ chain, the chassee–was
accurately marked–recorded–on the chalked floor with–bran! Oh dear!
reader, pity me: was ever man so unfortunate? This sealed my doom. She
would never speak to me, or even look at me afterwards.

But this was not all. My character with the sex–ay, with both sexes–was
also destroyed. I who had been heretofore, as I said, considered as an
example of prudence and discretion for a young man, was now set down as
a thoughtless, devil-may-care wag, never to do well: the men treated me
coldly, and the women turned their backs upon me; and so thus in reality
they made me what they had supposed I was. It was indeed no wonder, for
I could never after see a lady with a bustle but I felt an irresistible
inclination to laughter, and this too even on occasions when I should
have kept a grave countenance. If I met a couple of country or other
friends in the street, and inquired after their family–the cause,
perhaps, of the mourning in which they were attired–while they were
telling me of the death of some father, sister, or other relative, I to
their astonishment would take to laughing, and if there was a horse near
us, give the lady a drag away to another situation. And if then I were
asked the meaning of this ill-timed mirth, and this singular movement,
what could I say? Why, sometimes I made the matter worse by replying,
“Dear madam, it is only to save your bustle from the horse!”

Stung at length by my misfortunes and the hopelessness of my situation, I
became utterly reckless, and only thought of carrying out my revenge on
the bustles in every way in my power; and this I must say with some pride
I did for a while with good effect. I got a number of the hated articles
manufactured for myself, but not, reader, to wear, as you shall hear. Oh!
no; but whenever I received an invitation to a party–which indeed had
latterly been seldom sent me–I took one of these articles in my pocket,
and, watching a favourable opportunity when all were engaged in the mazy
figure of the dance, let it secretly fall amongst them. The result may be
imagined–ay, reader, imagine it, for I cannot describe it with effect.
First, the half-suppressed but simultaneous scream of all the ladies as
it was held up for a claimant; next, the equally simultaneous movement of
the ladies’ hands, all quickly disengaged from those of their partners,
and not raised up in wonder, but carried down to their–bustles! Never
was movement in the dance executed with such precision; and I should be
immortalised as the inventor of an attitude so expressive of sentiment
and of _feeling_.

Alas! this is the only consolation now afforded me in my afflictions:
I invented a new attitude–a new movement in the quadrille: let others
see that it be not forgotten. I am now a banished man from all refined
society: no lady will appear, where that odious Mr Bustle, as they call
me, might possibly be; and so no one will admit me inside their doors. I
have nothing left me, therefore, but to live out my solitary life, and
vent my execration of bustles in the only place now left me–the columns
of the Irish Penny Journal.

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ACT IV SCENE I. The same. LYSANDER, DEMETRIUS, HELENA, and HERMIA

ACT IV
SCENE I. The same. LYSANDER, DEMETRIUS, HELENA, and HERMIA

lying asleep.

Enter TITANIA and BOTTOM; PEASEBLOSSOM, COBWEB, MOTH, MUSTARDSEED, and other Fairies attending; OBERON behind unseen

TITANIA

Come, sit thee down upon this flowery bed,
While I thy amiable cheeks do coy,
And stick musk-roses in thy sleek smooth head,
And kiss thy fair large ears, my gentle joy.

BOTTOM

Where’s Peaseblossom?

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