“You see,” said poet Blandmour, enthusiastically–as some forty years
ago we walked along the road in a soft, moist snowfall, toward the
end of March–“you see, my friend, that the blessed almoner, Nature,
is in all things beneficent; and not only so, but considerate in
her charities, as any discreet human philanthropist might be. This
snow, now, which seems so unseasonable, is in fact just what a poor
husbandman needs. Rightly is this soft March snow, falling just before
seed-time, rightly it is called ‘Poor Man’s Manure.’ Distilling from
kind heaven upon the soil, by a gentle penetration it nourishes every
clod, ridge, and furrow. To the poor farmer it is as good as the rich
farmer’s farmyard enrichments. And the poor man has no trouble to
spread it, while the rich man has to spread his.”
“Perhaps so,” said I, without equal enthusiasm, brushing some of the
damp flakes from my chest. “It may be as you say, dear Blandmour. But
tell me, how is it that the wind drives yonder drifts of ‘Poor Man’s
Manure’ off poor Coulter’s two-acre patch here, and piles it up yonder
on rich Squire Teamster’s twenty-acre field?”
“Ah! to be sure–yes–well; Coulter’s field, I suppose is sufficiently
moist without further moistenings. Enough is as good as a feast, you
“Yes,” replied I, “of this sort of damp fare,” shaking another shower
of the damp flakes from my person. “But tell me, this warm spring snow
may answer very well, as you say; but how is it with the cold snows of
the long, long winters here?”
“Why, do you not remember the words of the Psalmist?–‘The Lord giveth
snow like wool’; meaning not only that snow is white as wool, but
warm, too, as wool. For the only reason, as I take it, that wool is
comfortable, is because air is entangled, and therefore warmed among
its fibres. Just so, then, take the temperature of a December field
when covered with this snow-fleece, and you will no doubt find it
several degrees above that of the air. So, you see, the winter’s snow
_itself_ is beneficent; under the pretense of frost–a sort of gruff
philanthropist–actually warming the earth, which afterward is to be
fertilizingly moistened by these gentle flakes of March.”
“I like to hear you talk, dear Blandmour; and, guided by your
benevolent heart, can only wish to poor Coulter plenty of this ‘Poor
Man’s Manure.'”
“But that is not all,” said Blandmour, eagerly. “Did you never hear of
the ‘Poor Man’s Eye-water’?”
“Take this soft March snow, melt it, and bottle it. It keeps pure as
alcohol. The very best thing in the world for weak eyes. I have a whole
demijohn of it myself. But the poorest man, afflicted in his eyes, can
freely help himself to this same all-bountiful remedy. Now, what a kind
provision is that!”
“Then ‘Poor Man’s Manure’ is ‘Poor Man’s Eye-water’ too?”
“Exactly. And what could be more economically contrived? One thing
answering two ends–ends so very distinct.”
“Very distinct, indeed.”
“Ah! that is your way. Making sport of earnest. But never mind. We have
been talking of snow; but common rain-water–such as falls all the year
round–is still more kindly. Not to speak of its known fertilizing
quality as to fields, consider it in one of its minor lights. Pray, did
you ever hear of a ‘Poor Man’s Egg’?”
“Never. What is that, now?”
“Why, in making some culinary preparations of meal and flour, where
eggs are recommended in the receipt-book, a substitute for the eggs
may be had in a cup of cold rain-water, which acts as leaven. And so a
cup of cold rain-water thus used is called by housewives a ‘Poor Man’s
Egg.’ And many rich men’s housekeepers sometimes use it.”
“But only when they are out of hen’s eggs, I presume, dear Blandmour.
But your talk is–I sincerely say it–most agreeable to me. Talk on.”
“Then there’s ‘Poor Man’s Plaster’ for wounds and other bodily harms;
an alleviative and curative, compounded of simple, natural things; and
so, being very cheap, is accessible to the poorest sufferers. Rich men
often use ‘Poor Man’s Plaster’.”
“But not without the judicious advice of a fee’d physician, dear
“Doubtless, they first consult the physician; but that may be an
unnecessary precaution.”
“Perhaps so. I do not gainsay it. Go on.”
“Well, then, did you ever eat of a ‘Poor Man’s Pudding’?”
“I never so much as heard of it before.”
“Indeed! Well, now you shall eat of one; and you shall eat it, too, as
made, unprompted, by a poor man’s wife, and you shall eat it at a poor
man’s table, and in a poor man’s house. Come now, and if after this
eating, you do not say that a ‘Poor Man’s Pudding’ is as relishable as
a rich man’s, I will give up the point altogether; which briefly is:
that, through kind Nature, the poor, out of their very poverty, extract
Not to narrate any more of our conversations upon this subject (for
we had several–I being at that time the guest of Blandmour in the
country, for the benefit of my health), suffice it that acting upon
Blandmour’s hint, I introduced myself into Coulter’s house on a wet
Monday noon (for the snow had thawed), under the innocent pretense of
craving a pedestrian’s rest and refreshment for an hour or two.
I was greeted, not without much embarrassment–owing, I suppose to my
dress–but still with unaffected and honest kindness. Dame Coulter was
just leaving the wash-tub to get ready her one o’clock meal against
her good man’s return from a deep wood about a mile distant among the
hills, where he was chopping by day’s work–seventy-five cents per day
and found himself. The washing being done outside the main building,
under an infirm-looking old shed, the dame stood upon a half-rotten
soaked board to protect her feet, as well as might be, from the
penetrating damp of the bare ground; hence she looked pale and chill.
But her paleness had still another and more secret cause–the paleness
of a mother to be. A quiet, fathomless heart-trouble, too, couched
beneath the mild, resigned blue of her soft and wife-like eye. But
she smiled upon me, as apologizing for the unavoidable disorder of a
Monday and a washing-day, and, conducting me into the kitchen, set me
down in the best seat it had–an old-fashioned chair of an enfeebled
I thanked her; and sat rubbing my hands before the ineffectual low
fire, and–unobservantly as I could–glancing now and then about the
room, while the good woman, throwing on more sticks said she was sorry
the room was no warmer. Something more she said, too–not repiningly,
however–of the fuel, as old and damp; picked-up sticks in Squire
Teamster’s forest, where her husband was chopping the sappy logs of the
living tree for the Squire’s fires. It needed not her remark, whatever
it was, to convince me of the inferior quality of the sticks; some
being quite mossy and toadstooled with long lying bedded among the
accumulated dead leaves of many autumns. They made a sad hissing, and
vain spluttering enough.
“You must rest yourself here till dinner-time, at least,” said the
dame; “what I have you are heartily welcome to.”
I thanked her again, and begged her not to heed my presence in the
least, but go on with her usual affairs.
I was struck by the aspect of the room. The house was old, and
constitutionally damp. The window-sills had beads of exuded dampness
upon them. The shriveled sashes shook in their frames, and the green
panes of glass were clouded with the long thaw. On some little errand
the dame passed into an adjoining chamber, leaving the door partly
open. The floor of that room was carpetless, as the kitchen’s was.
Nothing but bare necessaries were about me; and those not of the best
sort. Not a print on the wall but an old volume of Doddridge lay on the
smoked chimney-shelf.
“You must have walked a long way, sir; you sigh so with weariness.”
“No, I am not nigh so weary as yourself, I dare say.”
“Oh, but I am accustomed to that; _you_ are not, I should think,” and
her soft, sad blue eye ran over my dress. “But I must sweep these
shavings away; husband made him a new ax-helve this morning before
sunrise, and I have been so busy washing, that I have had no time to
clear up. But now they are just the thing I want for the fire. They’d
be much better though, were they not so green.”
Now if Blandmour were here, thought I to myself, he would call those
green shavings “Poor Man’s Matches,” or “Poor Man’s Tinder,” or some
pleasant name of that sort.
“I do not know,” said the good woman, turning round to me again–as she
stirred among her pots on the smoky fire–“I do not know how you will
like our pudding. It is only rice, milk, and salt boiled together.”
“Ah, what they call ‘Poor Man’s Pudding,’ I suppose you mean?”
A quick flush, half resentful, passed over her face.
“We do not call it so, sir,” she said, and was silent.
Upbraiding myself for my inadvertence, I could not but again think to
myself what Blandmour would have said, had he heard those words and
seen that flush.
At last a slow, heavy footfall was heard; then a scraping at the door,
and another voice said, “Come, wife; come, come–I must be back again
in a jif–if you say I _must_ take all my meals at home, you must be
speedy; because the Squire–Good-day, sir,” he exclaimed, now first
catching sight of me as he entered the room. He turned toward his
wife, inquiringly, and stood stock-still, while the moisture oozed from
his patched boots to the floor.
“This gentleman stops here awhile to rest and refresh: he will take
dinner with us, too. All will be ready now in a trice: so sit down
on the bench, husband, and be patient, I pray. You see, sir,” she
continued, turning to me, “William there wants, of mornings, to carry
a cold meal into the woods with him, to save the long one-o’clock walk
across the fields to and fro. But I won’t let him. A warm dinner is
more than pay for the long walk.”
“I don’t know about that,” said William, shaking his head. “I have
often debated in my mind whether it really paid. There’s not much odds,
either way, between a wet walk after hard work, and a wet dinner before
it. But I like to oblige a good wife like Martha. And you know, sir,
that women will have their whimseys.”
“I wish they all had as kind whimseys as your wife has,” said I.
“Well, I’ve heard that some women ain’t all maple-sugar; but, content
with dear Martha, I don’t know much about others.”
“You find rare wisdom in the woods,” mused I.
“Now, husband, if you ain’t too tired, just lend a hand to draw the
table out.”
“Nay,” said I; “let him rest, and let me help.”
“No,” said William, rising.
“Sit still,” said his wife to me.
The table set, in due time we all found ourselves with plates before us.
“You see what we have,” said Coulter–“salt pork, rye-bread, and
pudding. Let me help you. I got this pork of the Squire; some of his
last year’s pork, which he let me have on account. It isn’t quite as
sweet as this year’s would be; but I find it hearty enough to work on,
and that’s all I eat for. Only let the rheumatiz and other sicknesses
keep clear of me, and I ask no flavors or favors from any. But you
don’t eat of the pork!”
“I see,” said the wife, gently and gravely, “that the gentleman knows
the difference between this year’s and last year’s pork. But perhaps he
will like the pudding.”
I summoned up all my self-control, and smilingly assented to the
proposition of the pudding, without by my looks casting any reflections
upon the pork. But, to tell the truth, it was quite impossible for me
(not being ravenous, but only a little hungry at that time) to eat
of the latter. It had a yellowish crust all round it, and was rather
rankish, I thought, to the taste. I observed, too, that the dame did
not eat of it, though she suffered some to be put on her plate, and
pretended to be busy with it when Coulter looked that way. But she ate
of the rye-bread, and so did I.
“Now, then, for the pudding,” said Coulter. “Quick, wife; the Squire
sits in his sitting-room window, looking far out across the fields. His
time-piece is true.”
“He don’t play the spy on you, does he?” said I.
“Oh, no!–I don’t say that. He’s a good enough man. He gives me work.
But he’s particular. Wife, help the gentleman. You see, sir, if I lose
the Squire’s work, what will become of–” and, with a look for which I
honored humanity, with sly significance, he glanced toward his wife;
then, a little changing his voice, instantly continued–“that fine
horse I am going to buy?”
“I guess,” said the dame, with a strange, subdued sort of inefficient
pleasantry–“I guess that fine horse you sometimes so merrily dream of
will long stay in the Squire’s stall. But sometimes his man gives me a
Sunday ride.”
“A Sunday ride!” said I.
“You see,” resumed Coulter, “wife loves to go to church; but the
nighest is four miles off, over yon snowy hills. So she can’t walk it;
and I can’t carry her in my arms, though I have carried her up-stairs
before now. But, as she says, the Squire’s man sometimes gives her a
lift on the road; and for this cause it is that I speak of a horse I
am going to have one of these fine sunny days. And already, before
having it, I have christened it ‘Martha.’ But what am I about? Come,
come, wife! The pudding! Help the gentleman, do! The Squire! the
Squire!–think of the Squire! and help round the pudding. There,
one–two–three mouthfuls must do me. Good-by, wife. Good-by, sir, I’m
And, snatching his soaked hat, the noble Poor Man hurriedly went out
into the soak and the mire.
I suppose now, thinks I to myself, that Blandmour would poetically say,
He goes to take a Poor Man’s saunter.
“You have a fine husband,” said I to the woman, as we were now left
“William loves me this day as on the wedding-day, sir. Some hasty
words, but never a harsh one. I wish I were better and stronger for
his sake. And, oh! sir, both for his sake and mine” (and the soft,
blue, beautiful eyes turned into two well-springs), “how I wish little
William and Martha lived–it is so lonely-like now. William named after
him, and Martha for me.”
When a companion’s heart of itself overflows, the best one can do is to
do nothing. I sat looking down on my as yet untasted pudding.
“You should have seen little William, sir. Such a bright, manly boy,
only six years old–cold, cold now!”
Plunging my spoon into the pudding, I forced some into my mouth to stop
“And little Martha–Oh! sir, she was the beauty! Bitter, bitter! but
needs must be borne!”
The mouthful of pudding now touched my palate, and touched it with a
mouldy, briny taste. The rice, I knew, was of that damaged sort sold
cheap; and the salt from the last year’s pork barrel.
“Ah, sir, if those little ones yet to enter the world were the same
little ones which so sadly have left it; returning friends, not
strangers, strangers, always strangers! Yet does a mother soon learn
to love them; for certain, sir, they come from where the others have
gone. Don’t you believe that, sir? Yes, I know all good people must.
But, still, still–and I fear it is wicked, and very black-hearted,
too–still, strive how I may to cheer me with thinking of little
William and Martha in heaven, and with reading Dr. Doddridge
there–still, still does dark grief leak in, just like the rain through
our roof. I am left so lonesome now; day after day, all the day long,
dear William is gone; and all the damp day long grief drizzles and
drizzles down on my soul. But I pray to God to forgive me for this; and
for the rest, manage it as well as I may.”
Bitter and mouldy is the “Poor Man’s Pudding,” groaned I to myself,
half choked with but one little mouthful of it, which would hardly go
I could stay no longer to hear of sorrows for which the sincerest
sympathies could give no adequate relief; of a fond persuasion, to
which there could be furnished no further proof than already was had–a
persuasion, too, of that sort which much speaking is sure more or less
to mar; of causeless self-upbraidings, which no expostulations could
have dispelled, I offered no pay for hospitalities gratuitous and
honorable as those of a prince. I knew that such offerings would have
been more than declined; charity resented.
The native American poor never lose their delicacy or pride; hence,
though unreduced to the physical degradation of the European pauper,
they yet suffer more in mind than the poor of any other people in the
In the year 1814, during the summer following my first taste of
the “Poor Man’s Pudding,” a sea-voyage was recommended to me by my
physician. The Battle of Waterloo having closed the long drama of
Napoleon’s wars, many strangers were visiting Europe. I arrived
in London at the time the victorious princes were there assembled
enjoying the Arabian Nights’ hospitalities of a grateful and gorgeous
aristocracy, and the courtliest of gentlemen and kings–George the
Prince Regent.
I had declined all letters but one to my banker. I wandered about for
the best reception an adventurous traveler can have–the reception I
mean, which unsolicited chance and accident throw in his venturous way.
But I omit all else to recount one hour’s hap under the lead of a
very friendly man, whose acquaintance I made in the open street of
Cheapside. He wore a uniform, and was some sort of a civic subordinate;
I forget exactly what. He was off duty that day. His discourse was
chiefly of the noble charities of London. He took me to two or three,
and made admiring mention of many more.
“But,” said he, as we turned into Cheapside again, “if you are at all
curious about such things, let me take you–if it be not too late–to
one of the most interesting of all–our Lord Mayor’s Charities, sir;
nay, the charities not only of a Lord Mayor, but, I may truly say, in
this one instance, of emperors, regents, and kings. You remember the
event of yesterday?”
“That sad fire on the river-side, you mean, unhousing so many of the
“No. The grand Guildhall Banquet to the princes. Who can forget it?
Sir, the dinner was served on nothing but solid silver and gold plate,
worth at the least £200,000–that is, 1,000,000 of your dollars; while
the mere expenditure of meats, wines, attendance and upholstery, etc.,
can not be footed under £25,000–120,000 dollars of your hard cash.”
“But, surely, my friend, you do not call that charity–feeding kings at
that rate?”
“No. The feast came first–yesterday; and the charity after–to-day.
How else would you have it, where princes are concerned? But I think
we shall be quite in time–come; here we are at King Street, and down
there is Guildhall. Will you go?”
“Gladly, my good friend. Take me where you will. I come but to roam and
Avoiding the main entrance of the hall, which was barred, he took me
through some private way, and we found ourselves in a rear blind-walled
place in the open air. I looked round amazed. The spot was grimy as
a backyard in the Five Points. It was packed with a mass of lean,
famished, ferocious creatures, struggling and fighting for some
mysterious precedency, and all holding soiled blue tickets in their
“There is no other way,” said my guide; “we can only get in with the
crowd. Will you try it? I hope you have not on your drawing-room
suit? What do you say? It will be well worth your sight. So noble a
charity does not often offer. The one following the annual banquet of
Lord Mayor’s day–fine a charity as that certainly is–is not to be
mentioned with what will be seen to-day. Is it, ay?”
As he spoke, a basement door in the distance was thrown open, and the
squalid mass made a rush for the dark vault beyond.
I nodded to my guide, and sideways we joined in with the rest. Ere long
we found our retreat cut off by the yelping crowd behind, and I could
not but congratulate myself on having a civic, as well as civil guide;
one, too, whose uniform made evident his authority.
It was just the same as if I were pressed by a mob of cannibals on some
pagan beach. The beings round me roared with famine. For in this mighty
London misery but maddens. In the country it softens. As I gazed on the
meagre, murderous pack, I thought of the blue eye of the gentle wife of
poor Coulter. Some sort of curved, glittering steel thing (not a sword;
I know not what it was), before worn in his belt, was now flourished
overhead by my guide, menacing the creatures to forbear offering the
stranger violence.
As we drove, slow and wedge-like, into the gloomy vault, the howls of
the mass reverberated. I seemed seething in the Pit with the Lost. On
and on, through the dark and damp, and then up a stone stairway to a
wide portal; when, diffusing, the pestiferous mob poured in bright
day between painted walls and beneath a painted dome. I thought of the
anarchic sack of Versailles.
A few moments more and I stood bewildered among the beggars in the
famous Guildhall.
Where I stood–where the thronged rabble stood, less than twelve
hours before sat His Imperial Majesty, Alexander of Russia; His Royal
Majesty, Frederick William, King of Prussia; His Royal Highness,
George, Prince Regent of England; His world-renowned Grace, the Duke
of Wellington; with a mob of magnificoes, made up of conquering field
marshals, earls, counts, and innumerable other nobles of mark.
The walls swept to and fro, like the foliage of a forest with
blazonings of conquerors’ flags. Naught outside the hall was visible.
No windows were within four-and-twenty feet of the floor. Cut off from
all other sights, I was hemmed in by one splendid spectacle–splendid,
I mean, everywhere, but as the eye fell toward the floor. _That_ was
foul as a hovel’s–as a kennel’s; the naked boards being strewed with
the smaller and more wasteful fragments of the feast, while the two
long parallel lines, up and down the hall, of now unrobed, shabby,
dirty pine-tables were piled with less trampled wrecks. The dyed
banners were in keeping with the last night’s kings: the floor suited
the beggars of to-day. The banners looked upon the floor as from his
balcony Dives upon Lazarus. A line of liveried men kept back with
their staves the impatient jam of the mob, who, otherwise, might have
instantaneously converted the Charity into a Pillage. Another body of
gowned and gilded officials distributed the broken meats–the cold
victuals and crumbs of kings. One after another the beggars held up
their dirty blue tickets, and were served with the plundered wreck of
a pheasant, or the rim of a pasty–like the detached crown of an old
hat–the solids and meats stolen out.
“What a noble charity,” whispered my guide. “See that pasty now,
snatched by that pale girl; I dare say the Emperor of Russia ate of
that last night.”
“Very probably,” murmured I; “it looks as though some omnivorous
emperor or other had had a finger in that pie.”
“And see yon pheasant too–there–that one–the boy in the torn shirt
has it now–look! The Prince Regent might have dined off that.”
The two breasts were gouged ruthlessly out, exposing the bare bones,
embellished with the untouched pinions and legs.
“Yes, who knows!” said my guide, “his Royal Highness the Prince Regent
might have eaten of that identical pheasant.”
“I don’t doubt it,” murmured I, “he is said to be uncommonly fond of
the breast. But where is Napoleon’s head in a charger? I should fancy
that ought to have been the principal dish.”
“You are merry. Sir, even Cossacks are charitable here in Guildhall.
Look! the famous Platoff, the Hetman himself–(he was here last night
with the rest)–no doubt he thrust a lance into yon pork-pie there.
Look! the old shirtless man has it now. How he licks his chops over it,
little thinking of or thanking the good, kind Cossack that left it him!
Ah! another–a stouter has grabbed it. It falls; bless my soul!–the
dish is quite empty–only a bit of the hacked crust.”
“The Cossacks, my friend, are said to be immoderately fond of fat,”
observed I. “The Hetman was hardly so charitable as you thought.”
“A noble charity, upon the whole, for all that. See, even Gog and Magog
yonder, at the other end of the hall fairly laugh out their delight at
the scene.”
“But don’t you think, though,” hinted I, “that the sculptor, whoever he
was, carved the laugh too much into a grin–a sort of sardonical grin?”
“Well, that’s as you take it, sir. But see–now I’d wager a guinea
the Lord Mayor’s lady dipped her golden spoon into yonder golden-hued
jelly. See, the jelly-eyed old body has slipped it, in one broad gulp,
down his throat.”

“Peace to that jelly!” breathed I.
“What a generous, noble, magnanimous charity this is! unheard of in
any country but England, which feeds her very beggars with golden-hued
“But not three times every day, my friend. And do you really think that
jellies are the best sort of relief you can furnish to beggars? Would
not plain beef and bread, with something to do, and be paid for, be
“But plain beef and bread were not eaten here. Emperors, and
prince-regents, and kings, and field marshals don’t often dine on plain
beef and bread. So the leavings are according. Tell me, can you expect
that the crumbs of kings can be like the crumbs of squirrels?”
“_You!_ I mean _you_! stand aside, or else be served and away! Here,
take this pasty, and be thankful that you taste of the same dish with
her Grace the Duchess of Devonshire. Graceless ragamuffin, do you hear?”
These words were bellowed at me through the din by a red-gowned
official nigh the board.
“Surely he does not mean _me_,” said I to my guide; “he has not
confounded _me_ with the rest.”
“One is known by the company he keeps,” smiled my guide. “See! not only
stands your hat awry and bunged on your head, but your coat is fouled
and torn. Nay,” he cried to the red-gown, “this is an unfortunate
friend: a simple spectator, I assure you.”
“Ah! is that you, old lad?” responded the red-gown, in familiar
recognition of my guide–a personal friend as it seemed; “well, convey
your friend out forthwith. Mind the grand crash; it will soon be
coming; hark! now! away with him!”
Too late. The last dish had been seized. The yet unglutted mob raised
a fierce yell, which wafted the banners like a strong gust, and filled
the air with a reek as from sewers. They surged against the tables,
broke through all barriers, and billowed over the hall–their bare
tossed arms like the dashed ribs of a wreck. It seemed to me as if a
sudden impotent fury of fell envy possessed them. That one half-hour’s
peep at the mere remnants of the glories of the Banquets of Kings; the
unsatisfying mouthfuls of disemboweled pasties, plundered pheasants,
and half-sucked jellies, served to remind them of the intrinsic
contempt of the alms. In this sudden mood, or whatever mysterious thing
it was that now seized them, these Lazaruses seemed ready to spew up in
repentant scorn the contumelious crumbs of Dives.
“This way, this way! stick like a bee to my back,” intensely whispered
my guide. “My friend there has answered my beck, and thrown open yon
private door for us two. Wedge–wedge in–quick, there goes your
bunged hat–never stop for your coat-tail–hit that man–strike him
down! hold! jam! now! wrench along for your life! ha! here we breathe
freely; thank God! You faint. Ho!”
“Never mind. This fresh air revives me.”
I inhaled a few more breaths of it, and felt ready to proceed.
“And now conduct me, my good friend, by some front passage into
Cheapside, forthwith. I must home.”
“Not by the sidewalk though. Look at your dress. I must get a hack for
“Yes, I suppose so,” said I, ruefully eyeing my tatters, and then
glancing in envy at the close-buttoned coat and flat cap of my guide,
which defied all tumblings and tearings.
“There, now, sir,” said the honest fellow, as he put me into the hack,
and tucked in me and my rags, “when you get back to your own country,
you can say you have witnessed the greatest of all England’s noble
charities. Of course, you will make reasonable allowances for the
unavoidable jam. Good-by. Mind, Jehu”–addressing the driver on the
box–“this is a _gentleman_ you carry. He is just from the Guildhall
Charity, which accounts for his appearance. Go on now. London Tavern,
Fleet Street, remember, is the place.”
* * * * *
“Now, Heaven in its kind mercy save me from the noble charities of
London,” sighed I, as that night I lay bruised and battered on my bed;
“and Heaven save me equally from the ‘Poor Man’s Pudding’ and the ‘Rich
Man’s Crumbs.'”
The appointment was that I should meet my elderly uncle at the
riverside, precisely at nine in the morning. The skiff was to be ready,
and the apparatus to be brought down by his grizzled old black man. As
yet, the nature of the wonderful experiment remained a mystery to all
but the projector.
I was first on the spot. The village was high up the river, and the
inland summer sun was already oppressively warm. Presently I saw my
uncle advancing beneath the trees, hat off, and wiping his brow; while
far behind struggled poor old Yorpy, with what seemed one of the gates
of Gaza on his back.
“Come, hurrah, stump along, Yorpy!” cried my uncle, impatiently turning
round every now and then.
Upon the black’s staggering up to the skiff, I perceived that the
great gate of Gaza was transformed into a huge, shabby, oblong box,
hermetically sealed. The sphinx-like blankness of the box quadrupled
the mystery in my mind.
“Is _this_ the wonderful apparatus,” said I in amazement. “Why, it’s
nothing but a battered old dry-goods box, nailed up. And is _this_ the
thing, uncle, that is to make you a million of dollars ere the year be
out? What a forlorn-looking, lack-lustre, old ash-box it is.”
“Put it into the skiff!” roared my uncle to Yorpy, without heeding
my boyish disdain. “Put it in, you grizzled-headed cherub–put it
in carefully, carefully! If that box bursts, my everlasting fortune
“Bursts?–collapses?” cried I, in alarm. “It ain’t full of
combustibles? Quick, let me go to the further end of the boat!”
“Sit still, you simpleton!” cried my uncle again. “Jump in, Yorpy,
and hold on to the box like grim death while I shove off. Carefully!
carefully! you dunderheaded black! Mind t’other side of the box, I say!
Do you mean to destroy the box?”
“Duyvel take te pox!” muttered old Yorpy, who was a sort of Dutch
African. “De pox has been my cuss for de ten long ‘ear.”
“Now, then, we’re off–take an oar, youngster; you, Yorpy, clinch
the box fast. Here we go now. Carefully! carefully! You, Yorpy, stop
shaking the box! Easy! there’s a big snag. Pull now. Hurrah! deep water
at last! Now give way, youngster, and away to the island.”
“The island!” said I. “There’s no island hereabouts.”
“There is ten miles above the bridge, though,” said my uncle,
“Ten miles off! Pull that old dry-goods box ten miles up the river in
this blazing sun?”
“All that I have to say,” said my uncle, firmly, “is that we are bound
to Quash Island.”
“Mercy, uncle! if I had known of this great long pull of ten mortal
miles in this fiery sun, you wouldn’t have juggled _me_ into the skiff
so easy. What’s _in_ that box?–paving-stones? See how the skiff
settles down under it. I won’t help pull a box of paving-stones ten
miles. What’s the use of pulling ’em?”
“Look you, simpleton,” quoth my uncle, pausing upon his suspended oar.
“Stop rowing, will ye! Now then, if you don’t want to share in the
glory of my experiment; if you are wholly indifferent to halving its
immortal renown; I say, sir, if you care not to be present at the
first trial of my Great Hydraulic-Hydrostatic Apparatus for draining
swamps and marshes, and converting them, at the rate of one acre the
hour, into fields more fertile than those of the Genesee; if you care
not, I repeat, to have this proud thing to tell–in far future days,
when poor old I shall have been long dead and gone, boy–to your
children and your children’s children; in that case, sir, you are free
to land forthwith.”
“Oh, uncle! I did not mean–”
“No words, sir! Yorpy, take his oar, and help pull him ashore.”
“But, my dear uncle; I declare to you that–”
“Not a syllable, sir; you have cast open scorn upon the Great
Hydraulic-Hydrostatic Apparatus. Yorpy, put him ashore, Yorpy. It’s
shallow here again. Jump out, Yorpy, and wade with him ashore.”
“Now, my dear, good, kind uncle, do but pardon me this one time, and I
will say nothing about the apparatus.”
“Say nothing about it! when it is my express end and aim it shall be
famous! Put him ashore, Yorpy.”
“Nay, uncle, I _will_ not give up my oar. I have an oar in this matter,
and I mean to keep it. You shall not cheat me out my share of your
“Ah, now there–that’s sensible. You may stay, youngster. Pull again
We were all silent for a time, steadily plying our way. At last I
ventured to break water once more.
“I am glad, dear uncle, you have revealed to me at last the nature and
end of your great experiment. It is the effectual draining of swamps;
an attempt, dear uncle, in which, if you do but succeed (as I know you
will), you will earn the glory denied to a Roman emperor. He tried to
drain the Pontine marsh, but failed.”
“The world has shot ahead the length of its own diameter since then,”
quoth my uncle, proudly. “If that Roman emperor were here, I’d show him
what can be done in the present enlightened age.”
Seeing my good uncle so far mollified now as to be quite
self-complacent, I ventured another remark.
“This is a rather severe, hot pull, dear uncle.”
“Glory is not to be gained, youngster, without pulling hard for
it–against the stream, too, as we do now. The natural tendency of man,
in the mass, is to go down with the universal current into oblivion.”
“But why pull so far, dear uncle, upon the present occasion? Why pull
ten miles for it? You do but propose, as I understand it, to put to
the actual test this admirable invention of yours. And could it not be
tested almost anywhere?”
“Simple boy,” quoth my uncle, “would you have some malignant spy steal
from me the fruits of ten long years of high-hearted, persevering
endeavor? Solitary in my scheme, I go to a solitary place to test it.
If I fail–for all things are possible–no one out of the family will
know it. If I succeed, secure in the secrecy of my invention, I can
boldly demand any price for its publication.”
“Pardon me, dear uncle; you are wiser than I.”
“One would think years and gray hairs should bring wisdom, boy.”
“Yorpy there, dear uncle; think you his grizzled locks thatch a brain
improved by long life?”
“Am I Yorpy, boy? Keep to your oar!”
Thus padlocked again, I said no further word till the skiff grounded on
the shallows, some twenty yards from the deep-wooded isle.
“Hush!” whispered my uncle, intensely; “not a word now!” and he sat
perfectly still, slowly sweeping with his glance the whole country
around, even to both banks of the here wide-expanded stream.
“Wait till that horseman, yonder, passes!” he whispered again, pointing
to a speck moving along a lofty, riverside road, which perilously wound
on midway up a long line of broken bluffs and cliffs. “There–he’s out
of sight now, behind the copse. Quick! Yorpy! Carefully, though! Jump
overboard, and shoulder the box, and–Hold!”
We were all mute and motionless again.
“Ain’t that a boy, sitting like Zaccheus in yonder tree of the orchard
on the other bank? Look, youngster–young eyes are better than
old–don’t you see him?”
“Dear uncle, I see the orchard, but I can’t see any boy.”
“He’s a spy–I know he is,” suddenly said my uncle, disregardful of my
answer, and intently gazing, shading his eyes with his flattened hand.
“Don’t touch the box, Yorpy. Crouch! crouch down, all of ye!”
“Why, uncle–there–see–the boy is only a withered white bough. I see
it very plainly now.”
“You don’t see the tree I mean,” quoth my uncle, with a decided air of
relief, “but never mind; I defy the boy. Yorpy, jump out, and shoulder
the box. And now then, youngster, off with your shoes and stockings,
roll up your trousers legs, and follow me. Carefully, Yorpy, carefully.
That’s more precious than a box of gold, mind.”
“Heavy as de gelt anyhow,” growled Yorpy, staggering and splashing in
the shallows beneath it.
“There, stop under the bushes there–in among the flags–so–gently,
gently–there, put it down just there. Now youngster, are you ready?
Follow–tiptoes, tiptoes!”
“I can’t wade in this mud and water on my tiptoes, uncle; and I don’t
see the need of it either.”
“Go ashore, sir–instantly!”
“Why, uncle, I _am_ ashore.”
“Peace! follow me, and no more.”
Crouching in the water in complete secrecy, beneath the bushes and
among the tall flags, my uncle now stealthily produced a hammer and
wrench from one of his enormous pockets, and presently tapped the box.
But the sound alarmed him.
“Yorpy,” he whispered, “go you off to the right, behind the bushes, and
keep watch. If you see any one coming, whistle softly. Youngster, you
do the same to the left.”
We obeyed; and presently, after considerable hammering and supplemental
tinkering, my uncle’s voice was heard in the utter solitude, loudly
commanding our return.
Again we obeyed, and now found the cover of the box removed. All
eagerness, I peeped in, and saw a surprising multiplicity of convoluted
metal pipes and syringes of all sorts and varieties, all sizes and
calibres, inextricably interwreathed together in one gigantic coil. It
looked like a huge nest of anacondas and adders.
“Now then, Yorpy,” said my uncle, all animation, and flushed with the
foretaste of glory, “do you stand this side, and be ready to tip when I
give the word. And do you, youngster, stand ready to do as much for the
other side. Mind, don’t budge it the fraction of a barley-corn till I
say the word. All depends on a proper adjustment.”
“No fear, uncle. I will be careful as a lady’s tweezers.”
“I s’ant life de heavy pox,” growled old Yorpy, “till de wort pe given;
no fear o’ dat.”
“Oh, boy,” said my uncle now, upturning his face devotionally, while
a really noble gleam irradiated his gray eyes, locks, and wrinkles;
“Oh, boy! this, _this_ is the hour which for ten long years has, in
the prospect, sustained me through all my painstaking obscurity. Fame
will be the sweeter because it comes at the last; the truer, because
it comes to an old man like me, not to a boy like you. Sustainer! I
glorify Thee.”
He bowed over his venerable head, and–as I live–something like a
shower-drop somehow fell from my face into the shallows.
We tipped.
“A _leetle_ more!”
We tipped a little more.
“A _leetle_ more!”
We tipped a _leetle_ more.
“Just a _leetle_, very _leetle_ bit more.”
With great difficulty we tipped just a _leetle_, very _leetle_ more.
All this time my uncle was diligently stooping over, and striving to
peep in, up, and under the box where the coiled anacondas and adders
lay; but the machine being now fairly immersed, the attempt was wholly
He rose erect, and waded slowly all round the box; his countenance firm
and reliant, but not a little troubled and vexed.
It was plain something or other was going wrong. But as I was left in
utter ignorance as to the mystery of the contrivance, I could not tell
where the difficulty lay, or what was the proper remedy.
Once more, still more slowly, still more vexedly, my uncle waded
round the box, the dissatisfaction gradually deepening, but still
controlled, and still with hope at the bottom of it.
Nothing could be more sure than that some anticipated effect had, as
yet, failed to develop itself. Certain I was, too, that the water-line
did not lower about my legs.
“Tip it a _leetle_ bit–very _leetle_ now.”
“Dear uncle, it is tipped already as far as it can be. Don’t you see it
rests now square on its bottom?”
“You, Yorpy, take your black hoof from under the box!”
This gust of passion on the part of my uncle made the matter seem still
more dubious and dark. It was a bad symptom, I thought.
“Surely you _can_ tip it just a _leetle_ more!”
“Not a hair, uncle.”
“Blast and blister the cursed box then!” roared my uncle, in a terrific
voice, sudden as a squall. Running at the box, he dashed his bare foot
into it, and with astonishing power all but crushed in the side. Then
seizing the whole box, he disemboweled it of all its anacondas and
adders, and, tearing and wrenching them, flung them right and left over
the water.
“Hold, hold, my dear, dear uncle!–do for heaven’s sake desist. Don’t
destroy so, in one frantic moment, all your long calm years of devotion
to one darling scheme. Hold, I conjure!”
Moved by my vehement voice and uncontrollable tears, he paused in his
work of destruction, and stood steadfastly eyeing me, or rather blankly
staring at me, like one demented.
“It is not yet wholly ruined, dear uncle; come put it together now. You
have hammer and wrench; put it together again, and try it once more.
While there is life there is hope.”
“While there is life hereafter there is _despair_,” he howled.
“Do, do now, dear uncle–here, here, put those pieces together; or, if
that can’t be done without more tools, try a _section_ of it–that will
do just as well. Try it once; try, uncle.”
My persistent persuasiveness told upon him. The stubborn stump of hope,
plowed at and uprooted in vain, put forth one last miraculous green
Steadily and carefully pulling out of the wreck some of the more
curious-looking fragments, he mysteriously involved them together, and
then, clearing out the box, slowly inserted them there, and ranging
Yorpy and me as before, bade us tip the box once again.
We did so; and as no perceptible effect yet followed, I was each moment
looking for the previous command to tip the box over yet more, when,
glancing into my uncle’s face, I started aghast. It seemed pinched,
shriveled into mouldy whiteness, like a mildewed grape. I dropped the
box, and sprang toward him just in time to prevent his fall.
Leaving the woeful box where we had dropped it, Yorpy and I helped the
old man into the skiff and silently pulled from Quash Isle.
How swiftly the current now swept us down! How hardly before had we
striven to stem it! I thought of my poor uncle’s saying, not an hour
gone by, about the universal drift of the mass of humanity toward utter
“Boy!” said my uncle at last, lifting his head. I looked at him
earnestly, and was gladdened to see that the terrible blight of his
face had almost departed.
“Boy, there’s not much left in an old world for an old man to invent.”
I said nothing.
“Boy, take my advice, and never try to invent anything but–happiness.”
I said nothing.
“Boy, about ship, and pull back for the box.”
“Dear uncle!”
“It will make a good wood-box, boy. And faithful old Yorpy can sell the
old iron for tobacco-money.”
“Dear massa! dear old massa! dat be very fust time in de ten long ‘ear
yoo hab mention kindly old Yorpy. I tank yoo, dear old massa; I tank
yoo so kindly. Yoo is yourself agin in de ten long ‘ear.”
“Ay, long ears enough,” sighed my uncle; “Esopian ears. But it’s all
over now. Boy, I’m glad I’ve failed. I say, boy, failure has made a
good old man of me. It was horrible at first, but I’m glad I’ve failed.
Praise be to God for the failure!”
His face kindled with a strange, rapt earnestness. I have never
forgotten that look. If the event made my uncle a good old man as he
called it, it made me a wise young one. Example did for me the work of
When some years had gone by, and my dear old uncle began to fail, and,
after peaceful days of autumnal content, was gathered gently to his
fathers–faithful old Yorpy closing his eyes–as I took my last look at
his venerable face, the pale resigned lips seemed to move. I seemed to
hear again his deep, fervent cry–“Praise be to God for the failure!”
In relating to my friends various passages of my sea-goings I have
at times had occasion to allude to that singular people the ‘Gees,
sometimes as casual acquaintances, sometimes as shipmates. Such
allusions have been quite natural and easy. For instance, I have said
_The two ‘Gees_, just as another would say _The two Dutchmen_, or _The
two Indians_. In fact, being myself so familiar with ‘Gees, it seemed
as if all the rest of the world must be. But not so. My auditors have
opened their eyes as much as to say, “What under the sun is a ‘Gee?”
To enlighten them I have repeatedly had to interrupt myself and not
without detriment to my stories. To remedy which inconvenience, a
friend hinted the advisability of writing out some account of the
‘Gees, and having it published. Such as they are, the following
memoranda spring from that happy suggestion:
The word _’Gee_ (_g_ hard) is an abbreviation, by seamen, of
_Portugee_, the corrupt form of _Portuguese_. As the name is a
curtailment, so the race is a residuum. Some three centuries ago
certain Portuguese convicts were sent as a colony to Fogo, one of the
Cape de Verdes, off the northwest coast of Africa, an island previously
stocked with an aboriginal race of negroes, ranking pretty high in
civility, but rather low in stature and morals. In course of time, from
the amalgamated generation all the likelier sort were drafted off as
food for powder, and the ancestors of the since-called ‘Gees were left
as the _caput mortum_, or melancholy remainder.
Of all men seamen have strong prejudices, particularly in the matter of
race. They are bigots here. But when a creature of inferior race lives
among them, an inferior tar, there seems no bound to their disdain.
Now, as ere long will be hinted, the ‘Gee, though of an aquatic
nature, does not, as regards higher qualifications, make the best of
sailors. In short, by seamen the abbreviation ‘Gee was hit upon in pure
contumely; the degree of which may be partially inferred from this,
that with them the primitive word Portugee itself is a reproach; so
that ‘Gee, being a subtle distillation from that word, stands, in point
of relative intensity to it, as attar of roses does to rose-water. At
times, when some crusty old sea-dog has his spleen more than unusually
excited against some luckless blunderer of Fogo his shipmate, it is
marvelous the prolongation of taunt into which he will spin out the one
little exclamatory monosyllable Ge-e-e-e-e!
The Isle of Fogo, that is, “Fire Isle,” was so called from its volcano,
which, after throwing up an infinite deal of stones and ashes, finally
threw up business altogether, from its broadcast bounteousness having
become bankrupt. But thanks to the volcano’s prodigality in its time,
the soil of Fogo is such as may be found on a dusty day on a road newly
macadamized. Cut off from farms and gardens, the staple food of the
inhabitants is fish, at catching which they are expert. But none the
less do they relish ship-biscuit, which, indeed, by most islanders,
barbarous or semi-barbarous, is held a sort of lozenge.
In his best estate the ‘Gee is rather small (he admits it) but, with
some exceptions, hardy; capable of enduring extreme hard work, hard
fare, or hard usage, as the case may be. In fact, upon a scientific
view, there would seem a natural adaptability in the ‘Gee to hard
times generally. A theory not uncorroborated by his experiences; and
furthermore, that kindly care of Nature in fitting him for them,
something as for his hard rubs with a hardened world Fox the Quaker
fitted himself, namely, in a tough leather suit from top to toe. In
other words, the ‘Gee is by no means of that exquisitely delicate
sensibility expressed by the figurative adjective thin-skinned. His
physicals and spirituals are in singular contrast. The ‘Gee has a great
appetite, but little imagination; a large eyeball, but small insight.
Biscuit he crunches, but sentiment he eschews.
His complexion is hybrid; his hair ditto; his mouth disproportionally
large, as compared with his stomach; his neck short; but his head
round, compact, and betokening a solid understanding.
Like the negro, the ‘Gee has a peculiar savor, but a different one–a
sort of wild, marine, gamey savor, as in the sea-bird called haglet.
Like venison, his flesh is firm but lean.
His teeth are what are called butter-teeth, strong, durable, square,
and yellow. Among captains at a loss for better discourse during dull,
rainy weather in the horse-latitudes, much debate has been had whether
his teeth are intended for carnivorous or herbivorous purposes, or both
conjoined. But as on his isle the ‘Gee eats neither flesh nor grass,
this inquiry would seem superfluous.
The native dress of the ‘Gee is, like his name, compendious. His head
being by nature well thatched, he wears no hat. Wont to wade much in
the surf, he wears no shoes. He has a serviceably hard heel, a kick
from which is by the judicious held almost as dangerous as one from a
wild zebra.
Though for a long time back no stranger to the seafaring people of
Portugal, the ‘Gee, until a comparatively recent period, remained
almost undreamed of by seafaring Americans. It is now some forty years
since he first became known to certain masters of our Nantucket ships,
who commenced the practice of touching at Fogo, on the outward passage,
there to fill up vacancies among their crews arising from the short
supply of men at home. By degrees the custom became pretty general,
till now the ‘Gee is found aboard of almost one whaler out of three.
One reason why they are in request is this: An unsophisticated ‘Gee
coming on board a foreign ship never asks for wages. He comes for
biscuit. He does not know what wages mean, unless cuffs and buffets be
wages, of which sort he receives a liberal allowance, paid with great
punctuality, besides perquisites of punches thrown in now and then.
But for all this, some persons there are, and not unduly biassed by
partiality to him either, who still insist that the ‘Gee never gets his
His docile services being thus cheaply to be had, some captains
will go the length of maintaining that ‘Gee sailors are preferable,
indeed every way, physically and intellectually, superior to American
sailors–such captains complaining, and justly, that American sailors,
if not decently treated, are apt to give serious trouble.
But even by their most ardent admirers it is not deemed prudent to sail
a ship with none but ‘Gees, at least if they chance to be all green
hands, a green ‘Gee being of all green things the greenest. Besides,
owing to the clumsiness of their feet ere improved by practice in
the rigging, green ‘Gees are wont, in no inconsiderable numbers, to
fall overboard the first dark, squally night; insomuch that when
unreasonable owners insist with a captain against his will upon a green
‘Gee crew fore and aft, he will ship twice as many ‘Gees as he would
have shipped of Americans, so as to provide for all contingencies.
The ‘Gees are always ready to be shipped. Any day one may go to their
isle, and on the showing of a coin of biscuit over the rail, may load
down to the water’s edge with them.
But though any number of ‘Gees are ever ready to be shipped, still it
is by no means well to take them as they come. There is a choice even
in ‘Gees.
Of course the ‘Gee has his private nature as well as his public coat.
To know ‘Gees–to be a sound judge of ‘Gees–one must study them,
just as to know and be a judge of horses one must study horses.
Simple as for the most part are both horse and ‘Gee, in neither case
can knowledge of the creature come by intuition. How unwise, then,
in those ignorant young captains who, on their first voyage, will go
and ship their ‘Gees at Fogo without any preparatory information,
or even so much as taking convenient advice from a ‘Gee jockey. By a
‘Gee jockey is meant a man well versed in ‘Gees. Many a young captain
has been thrown and badly hurt by a ‘Gee of his own choosing. For
notwithstanding the general docility of the ‘Gee when green, it may be
otherwise with him when ripe. Discreet captains won’t have such a ‘Gee.
“Away with that ripe ‘Gee!” they cry; “that smart ‘Gee; that knowing
‘Gee! Green ‘Gees for me!”
For the benefit of inexperienced captains about to visit Fogo, the
following may be given as the best way to test a ‘Gee: Get square
before him, at, say three paces, so that the eye, like a shot, may
rake the ‘Gee fore and aft, at one glance taking in his whole make and
build–how he looks about the head, whether he carry it well; his ears,
are they over-lengthy? How fares it in the withers? His legs, does the
‘Gee stand strongly on them? His knees, any Belshazzar symptoms there?
How stands it in the regions of the brisket, etc., etc.
Thus far bone and bottom. For the rest, draw close to, and put the
centre of the pupil of your eye–put it, as it were, right into the
‘Gee’s eye–even as an eye-stone, gently, but firmly slip it in there,
and then note what speck or beam of viciousness, if any, will be
floated out.
All this and more must be done; and yet after all, the best judge may
be deceived. But on no account should the shipper negotiate for his
‘Gee with any middle-man, himself a ‘Gee. Because such an one must be
a knowing ‘Gee, who will be sure to advise the green ‘Gee what things
to hide and what to display, to hit the skipper’s fancy; which, of
course, the knowing ‘Gee supposes to lean toward as much physical
and moral excellence as possible. The rashness of trusting to one of
these middle-men was forcibly shown in the case of the ‘Gee who by his
countrymen was recommended to a New Bedford captain as one of the most
agile ‘Gees in Fogo. There he stood straight and stout, in a flowing
pair of man-of-war’s-man trousers, uncommonly well fitted out. True, he
did not step around much at the time. But that was diffidence. Good.
They shipped him. But at the first taking in of sail the ‘Gee hung
fire. Come to look, both trousers-legs were full of elephantiasis. It
was a long sperm-whaling voyage. Useless as so much lumber, at every
port prohibited from being dumped ashore, that elephantine ‘Gee, ever
crunching biscuit, for three weary years was trundled round the globe.
Grown wise by several similar experiences, old Captain Hosea Kean, of
Nantucket, in shipping a ‘Gee, at present manages matters thus: He
lands at Fogo in the night; by secret means gains information where the
likeliest ‘Gee wanting to ship lodges; whereupon with a strong party he
surprises all the friends and acquaintances of that ‘Gee; putting them
under guard with pistols at their heads; then creeps cautiously toward
the ‘Gee, now lying wholly unawares in his hut, quite relaxed from
all possibility of displaying aught deceptive in his appearance. Thus
silently, thus suddenly, thus unannounced, Captain Kean bursts upon his
‘Gee, so to speak, in the very bosom of his family. By this means, more
than once, unexpected revelations have been made. A ‘Gee, noised abroad
for a Hercules in strength and an Apollo Belvidere for beauty, of a
sudden is discovered all in a wretched heap; forlornly adroop as upon
crutches, his legs looking as if broken at the cart-wheel. Solitude is
the house of candor, according to Captain Kean. In the stall, not the
street, he says, resides the real nag.
The innate disdain of regularly bred seamen toward ‘Gees receives an
added edge from this. The ‘Gees undersell them working for biscuit
where the sailors demand dollars. Hence anything said by sailors to the
prejudice of ‘Gees should be received with caution. Especially that
jeer of theirs, that monkey-jacket was originally so called from the
circumstance that that rude sort of shaggy garment was first known in
Fogo. They often call a monkey-jacket a ‘Gee-jacket. However this may
be, there is no call to which the ‘Gee will with more alacrity respond
than the word “Man!”
Is there any hard work to be done, and the ‘Gees stand round in sulks?
“Here, my men!” cries the mate. How they jump. But ten to one when the
work is done, it is plain ‘Gee again. “Here, ‘Gee you ‘Ge-e-e-e!” In
fact, it is not unsurmised, that only when extraordinary stimulus is
needed, only when an extra strain is to be got out of them, are these
hapless ‘Gees ennobled with the human name.
As yet, the intellect of the ‘Gee has been little cultivated. No
well-attested educational experiment has been tried upon him. It is
said, however, that in the last century a young ‘Gee was by a visionary
Portuguese naval officer sent to Salamanca University. Also, among the
Quakers of Nantucket, there has been talk of sending five comely ‘Gees,
aged sixteen, to Dartmouth College; that venerable institution, as is
well known, having been originally founded partly with the object of
finishing off wild Indians in the classics and higher mathematics. Two
qualities of the ‘Gee which, with his docility, may be justly regarded
as furnishing a hopeful basis for his intellectual training, is his
excellent memory, and still more excellent credulity.
The above account may, perhaps, among the ethnologists, raise some
curiosity to see a ‘Gee. But to see a ‘Gee there is no need to go all
the way to Fogo, no more than to see a Chinaman to go all the way to
China. ‘Gees are occasionally to be encountered in our seaports, but
more particularly in Nantucket and New Bedford. But these ‘Gees are
not the ‘Gees of Fogo. That is, they are no longer green ‘Gees. They
are sophisticated ‘Gees, and hence liable to be taken for naturalized
citizens badly sunburnt. Many a Chinaman, in a new coat and pantaloons,
his long queue coiled out of sight in one of Genin’s hats, has
promenaded Broadway, and been taken merely for an eccentric Georgia
planter. The same with ‘Gees; a stranger need have a sharp eye to know
a ‘Gee, even if he see him.
Thus much for a general sketchy view of the ‘Gee. For further and
fuller information apply to any sharp-witted American whaling captain
but more especially to the before-mentioned old Captain Hosea Kean, of
Nantucket, whose address at present is “Pacific Ocean.”