The Fiend's Delight, by Ambrose Bierce

Current Journalings.

. . . Following is the manner of death incurred by Dr. Deadwood, the celebrated African explorer, which took place at Ujijijijiji, under the auspices of the Royal Geographical Society of England, assisted, at some distance, by Mr. Shandy of the New York Herald —

An intelligent gorilla has recently been imported to this country, who had the good fortune to serve the Doctor as a body servant in the interior of Africa, and he thus describes the manner of his master’s death. The Doctor was accustomed to pass his nights in the stomach of an acquaintance-a crocodile about fifty feet long. Stepping out one evening to take an observation of one of the lunar eclipses peculiar to the country, he spoke to his host, saying that as he should not return, until after bedtime, he would not trouble him to sit up to let him in; he would just leave the door open till he came home. By way of doing so, he set up a stout fence-rail between his landlord’s distended jaws, and went away.

Returning about midnight, he took off his boots outside, so as not to awaken his friend, entered softly, knocked away the prop, and prepared to turn in. But the noise of pounding on the rail had aroused the householder, and so great was the feeling of relief induced by the relaxation of the maxillary muscles, that he unconsciously shut his mouth to smile, without giving his tenant time to get into the bedroom. The Doctor was just stooping to untie his drawers, when he was caught between the floor and ceiling, like a lemon in a squeezer.

Next day the melancholy remains were given up to our informant, who displays a singular reticence regarding his disposition of them; merely picking his teeth with his claws in an absent, thoughtful kind of way, as if the subject were too mournful to be discussed in all its harrowing details.

None of the Doctor’s maps or instruments were recovered; his bereaved landlord holds them as security for certain rents claimed to be due and unpaid. It is probable that Great Britain will make a stern demand for them, and if they are not at once surrendered will-submit her claim to a Conference.

 

. . . . The prim young maidens who affiliate with the Young Men’s Christian Association of San Francisco-who furnish the posies for their festivals, and assist in the singing of psalms-have a gymnasium in the temple. Thither they troop nightly to display their skill in turning inside out and shutting themselves up like jack-knives of the gentler kind.

Here may be seen the godly Rachel and the serious Ruth, suspended by their respective toes between the heaven to which they aspire and the wicked world they do abhor. Here the meek-eyed Hannah, pendent from the horizontal bar, doubleth herself upon herself and stares fixedly backward from between her shapely limbs, a thing of beauty and a joy for several minutes. Mehitable Ann, beloved of young Soapenlocks, vaults lightly over a barrier and with unspoken prayer lays hold on the unstable trapeze mounting aloft in air. Jerusha, comeliest of her sex, ties herself in a double bow-knot, and meditates upon the doctrine of election.

O, blessed temple of grace divine! O, innocence and youth and simple faith! O, water and molasses and unsalted butter! O, niceness absolute and godly whey! Would that we were like unto these ewe lambs, that we might frisk and gambol among them without evil. Would that we were female, and Christian, and immature, with a flavour as of green grass and a hope in heaven. Then would we, too, sing hymns through our blessed nose, and contort and musculate with much satisfaction of soul, even in the gymnasium of The Straight-backed.

 

. . . . Some raging iconoclast, after having overthrown religion by history, upset history by science, and then toppled over science, has now laid his impious hands upon babies’ nursing bottles.

“The tubes of these infernal machines,” says this tearing beast, “are composed of india-rubber dissolved in bisulphide of carbon, and thickened with lead, resin, and sometimes oxysulphuret of antimony, from which, when it comes in contact with the milk, sulphuretted hydrogen is evolved, and lactate of lead formed in the stomach.”

This logic is irresistible. Granting only that the tubes are made in that simple and intelligible manner (and anybody can see for himself that they are), the sulphuretted hydrogen and the lactate of lead follow (down the osophagus) as a logical sequence. But the scientific horror seems to be profoundly unaware that these substances are not only harmless to the child, but actually nutritious and essential to its growth. Not only so, but nature has implanted in its breast an instinctive craving for these very comforts. Often have we seen some wee thing turn disgusted from the breast and lift up its thin voice: “Not for Joseph; give me the bottle with the oxysulphuret of antimony tube. I take sulphuretted hydrogen and lactate of lead in mine every time!” And we have said: “Nature is working in that darling. What God hath joined together let no man put asunder!”

And we have thought of the wicked iconoclast.

 

. . . . There are a lot of evil-minded horses about the city, who seem to take a fiendish delight in letting fly their heels at whomsoever they catch in a godly reverie unconscious of their proximity. This is perfectly natural and human, but it is annoying to be always getting horse-kicked when one is not in a mood for it.

The worst of it is, these horses always manage it so as to get tethered across the sidewalk in the most populous thoroughfares, where they at once drop into the semblance of a sound slumber. By this means they lure the unsuspecting to their doom, and just as some unconscious pedestrian is passing astern of them they wake up, and without a preliminary yawn, or even a warning shake of the tail like the more chivalrous rattlesnake, they at once discharge their feet at him with a rapidity and effect that are quite surprising if the range be not too long. Usually this occurs in Merchant-street, below Montgomery, and the damage is merely nominal; some worthless Italian fisherman, market gardener, or decayed gentleman oozing out of a second-class restaurant being the only sufferer.

Rut not infrequently these playful brutes get themselves tethered in some fashionable promenade, and the consequence is demoralizing to white people. We speak within the limits of possibility when we say that we have seen no less than seven women and children in the air at once, impelled heavenward by as many consecutive kicks of a single skilled operator. No longer ago than we can remember we saw an aged party in spectacles and a clawhammer coat gyrating through the air like an irregular bolt shot out of a catapult. Before we could ascertain from him the site of the quadruped from whom he had received his impulsion, he had passed like a vague dream, and the equine scoundrel went unwhipped of justice.

These flying squadrons are serious inconveniences to public travel; it is conducive to profanity to have a whizzing young woman, a rattling old man, or a singing baby flung against one’s face every few moments by the hoofs of some animal whom one has never injured, and who is a perfect stranger.

It ought to be stopped.

 

. . . . In the telegraphic account of a distressing railway accident in New York, we find the following:—“The body of Mr. Germain was identified by his business partner, John Austin, who seemed terribly affected by his loss.”

O, reader, how little we think upon the fearful possibilities hidden away in the womb of the future. Any day may snatch from our life its light. One moment we were happy in the possession of some dear object, about which to twine the tendrils of the heart; the next, we cower and shiver in the chill gloom of a bereavement that withers the soul and makes existence an intolerable burden! To-day all nature smiles with a sunny warmth, and life spreads before us a wilderness of sweets; to-morrow-we lose our business partner!

 

. . . . Mr. J. L. Dummle, one of our most respected citizens, left his home to go, as he said, to his office. There was nothing unusual in his demeanour, and he appeared to be in his customary health and spirits. It is not known that there was anything in his financial or domestic affairs to make life distasteful to him. About half an hour after parting with his family, he was seen conversing with a friend at the corner of Kearny and Sutter-streets, from which point he seems to have gone directly to the Vallejo-street wharf. He was here seen by the captain of the steamer New World, standing upon the extreme end of the wharf, but the circumstance did not arouse any suspicion in the mind of the Captain, to whom he was well known. At that moment some trivial business diverted the Captain’s attention, and he saw Mr. Dummle no more; but it has been ascertained that the latter proceeded directly home, where he may now be seen by any one desiring to obtain further particulars of the melancholy event here narrated.

Mr. Dummle speaks of it with perfect frankness and composure.

 

. . . . In deference to a time-worn custom, on the first day of the year the writer swore to, affixed a revenue stamp upon, and recorded the following document:—

“I will not, during this year, utter a profane word-unless in sport-without having been previously vexed by something.

“I will murder no one that does not offend me, except for his money.

“I will commit highway robbery upon none but small school children, and then only under the stimulus of present or prospective hunger.

“I will not bear false witness against my neighbour where nothing is to be made by it.

“I will be as moral and religious as the law shall compel me to be.

“I will run away with no man’s wife without her full and free consent, and never, no never, so help me heaven! will I take his children along.

“I wont write any wicked slanders against anybody, unless by refraining I should sacrifice a good joke.

“I wont beat any cripples who do not come fooling about me when I am busy; and I will give all my neighbours’ boots to the poor.”

 

. . . . A town in Vermont has a society of young men, formed for the express purpose of rescuing young ladies from drowning. We warn these gentlemen that we will not accept even honorary membership in their concern; we do not sympathize with the movement. Upon several occasions we have stood by and seen young ladies’ noses disappear beneath the waters blue, with a stolid indifference that would have been creditable in a husband. It was a trifle rough on the darlings, but if we know our own mind we do not purpose, just for the doubtful pleasure of saving a female’s life, to surrender our prerogative of marrying when and whom we like.

If we take a fancy to a woman we shall wed her, but we’re not to be coerced into matrimony by any ridiculous school-girl who may chance to fall into a horse-pond. We know their tricks and their manners -waking to consciousness in a fellow’s arms and throwing their own wet ones about his neck, saying, “The life you have preserved, noble youth, is yours; whither thou goest I will go; thy horses and carriages shall be my horses and carriages!”

We are too old a sturgeon to be caught with a spoon-hook. Ladies in the vicinity of our person need not hesitate to fling themselves madly into the first goose-puddle that obstructs their way; their liberty of action will be scrupulously respected.

 

. . . . There is a bladdery old nasality ranging about the country upon free passes, vexing the public ear with “hallowed songs,” and making of himself a spectacle to the eye. This bleating lamb calls himself the “Sacred Singer,” and has managed to get that pleasing title into the newspapers until it is become as offensive as himself.

Now, therefore, we do trustfully petition that this wearisome psalm-sharp, this miauling meter-monger, this howling dervish of hymns devotional, may strain his trachea, unsettle the braces of his lungs, crack his ridiculous gizzard and perish of pneumonia starvation. And may the good Satan seize upon the catgut strings of his tuneful soul, and smite therefrom a wicked, wicked waltz!

 

. . . . We hold a most unflattering opinion of the man who will thieve a dog, but between him and the man who will keep one, the moral difference is not so great as to be irreconcilable.

Our own dog is a standing example of canine inutility. The scurvy cur is not only totally depraved in his morals, but his hair stands the wrong way, and his tail is of that nameless type intermediate between the pendulously pitiful and the spirally exasperating-a tail which gives rise to conflicting emotions in the mind of the beholder, and causes the involuntarily uplifted hand to hesitate if it shall knuckle away the springing tear, or fall in thunderous vengeance upon the head of the dog’s master.

That dog spends about half his elegant leisure in devouring the cold victuals of compassion, and the other half in running after the bricks of which he is the provocation and we are the target. Within the last six years we employed as editors upon the unhappy journal which it was intended that this article should redeem, no less than sixteen pickpockets, hoping they would steal him; but with an acute intelligence of which their writing conveyed but an imperfect idea, they shunned the glittering bait, as one walks to windward of the deadly upas tree. We have given him away to friends until we haven’t a friend left; we have offered him at auction-sales, and been ourselves knocked down; we have decoyed him into strange places and abandoned him, until we are poor from the payment of unpromised rewards. In the character of a charitable donation he has been driven from the door of every orphan asylum, foundling hospital, and reform school in the State. Not a week passes but we forfeit exemplary damages for inciting him to fall foul of passing gentlemen, in the vain hope of getting him slain.

If any one would wish to purchase a cheap dog, we would sell this beast.

 

. . . . A religious journal published in the Far West says that Brothers Dong, Gong, and Tong are Chinese converts to its church. There is a fine religious nasality about these names that is strongly suggestive of the pulpit in the palmy days of the Puritans.

By the way, we should dearly love to know how to baptize a Chinaman. We have a shrewd suspicion that it is done as the Mongolian laundryman dampens our linen: by taking the mouth full of water and spouting it over the convert’s head in a fine spray. If so, it follows that the pastor having most “cheek” is best qualified for cleansing the pagan soul.

An important question arises here. Suppose Dong, Gong, and Tong to have been baptized in this way, who pronounced that efficacious formula, “I baptize thee in the name,” etc.? Clearly the parson, with his mouth full of water, could not have done so at the instant of baptism, and if the sentence was spoken by any other person it was a falsehood. It must therefore have been spoken either before the minister distended his cheeks, or after he had exhausted them. In either case, according to the learned Dr. Sicklewit, the ceremony is utterly null and void of effect. (Study of Baptism, vol. ix., ch. cxix. vi. p. 627, line 13 from bottom.)

Possibly, however, D., G. and T. were not baptized in this way. Then how the devil were they baptized?-and why?

 

. . . . Henry Wolfe, of Kentucky, aged one hundred and eight years, who had never been sick in his life, lay down one fine day and sawed his neck asunder with a razor. Henry did not believe in self-slaughter; he despised it. It was Henry’s opinion that as God had placed us here we should stay until it was His pleasure to remove us. That is also our opinion, and the opinion of all other good Christians who would like to die but are afraid to do it. It will be observed that Henry could not claim originality of opinion.

But there is a point beyond which hope deferred maketh the heart sick, and Henry had passed that point. He waited patiently till he was naked of scalp and deaf of ear. He endured without repining the bent back, the sightless eyes, and the creaking joints incident to over-maturity. But when he saw a man perish of senility, who in infancy had called him “Old Hank,” Mr. Wolfe thought patience had ceased to be commendable, and he abandoned his post of duty without being regularly relieved.

It is to be hoped he will be hotly punished for it.

 

. . . . One day an obscure and unimportant person pitched himself among the rolling porpoises, from a ferry-boat, and an officious busy-body, not at once clearly apprehending that the matter was none of his immediate business, hied him down to the engineer and commanded that official to “back her, hard!” As it is customary upon the high seas for such orders to emanate from the officer in command, that particular boat kept forging ahead, and the unimportant old person carried out his original design-that is, he went to the bottom like an iron wedge. Rises the press in its wrath and prates about a Grand Jury! Shrieks an intelligent public, in chorus, at the heartless engineer!

Meantime the pretty fish are running away with choice bits of God’s image at the bottom of the bay; the cunning crab makes merry with a dead man’s eye, the nipping shrimp sweetens himself for the table upon the clean juices of a succulent corpse. Below all is peace and fat feasting; above rolls the sounding ocean of eternal Bosh!

 

. . . . There is war! The woman suffrage folk go up against one another, because that a portion of them cleave to the error that the Bible is a collection of fables. These will probably divest themselves of this belief about the time that Mr. Satan stands over them with a toasting-fork, points significantly to a glowing gridiron, and says to each suffrager:

“Madame, I beg your pardon, but you will please retire to the ladies’ dressing-room, disrobe, unpad, lay off your back-hair; and make yourself as comfortable as possible while some fresh coals are being put on the fire. When you have unmade your toilet you may touch that bell, and you will be nicely buttered and salted for the iron. A polite and gentlemanly attendant will occasionally turn you, and I shall take pleasure in looking in upon you once in a million years, to see that you are being properly done. Exceedingly sultry weather, Madame. Au revoir.”

 

. . . . The funeral of the Rev. Father Byrne took place from the Church of the Holy Cross. The ceremonies were of the most solemn and impressive character, and were keenly enjoyed by the empty benches by which the Protestant clergy were ably represented. Why turned ye not out, O Biblethump, and Muddletext, and you, Hymnsing? Is it thus that the Master was wont to treat the dead?

Now get thee into the secret recesses of thy closet, Rev. Lovepreach; knuckle down upon thy knees and pray to a tolerant God not to smite thee with a plague. For lo! thou hast been a bigoted, bat-eyed, cat-hearted fraud-a preacher of peace and a practiser of strife. For these many years thy tongue hath been dropping gospel honey, and thy soul secreting bitterness. Thy voice has been as the sound of glad horns upon a hill, but thy ways are the ways of a gaunt hound tracking the hunted stag. “Holier than we,” are you? And when the worker of differing faith is gone to his account, you turn your sleek back upon the God’s-image as it is given to the waiting worms. Perdition seize thee and thy holiness! we’ll none of it.

 

. . . . Two hundred dollars for biting a woman’s neck and arms! That was the sentence imposed upon the gentle Mr. Hill, because His Eminence set his incisors into the yielding tissue of Mrs. Langdon, a lady with whom his wife happened to be debating by means of a stew-kettle.

If this monstrous decision stand, the writer owes the treasury about ten thousand dollars. Though by nature of a mild and gentle appetite, preferring simple roots and herbs, yet it has been his custom to nip all female necks and arms that have been willingly submitted unto his teeth. He hath found in this harmless, and he had supposed lawful, practice, an exceeding sweetness of sensation, and a satisfaction wherewith the delights of sausage, or the bliss of pigs’ feet, can in nowise compare. Having commonly found the gratification mutual, he thinks he is justified in maintaining its innocence.

 

. . . . We are tolerably phlegmatic and notoriously hard to provoke. We look on with considerable composure while our favourite Chinaman is being dismembered in the streets, and our dog publicly insulted. Detecting an alien hand in our trousers pocket excites in us only a feeling of temperate disapprobation, and an open swindle executed upon our favourite cousin by an unscrupulous shopkeeper we regard simply as an instance of enterprise which has taken an unfortunate direction. Slow to anger, quick to forgive, charitable in judgment and to mercy prone; with unbounded faith in the entire goodness of man and the complete holiness of woman; seeking ever for palliating circumstances in the conduct of the blackest criminal-we are at once a model of moderation and a pattern of forbearance.

But if Mrs. Victoria Woodhull and her swinish crew of free lovers had but a single body, and that body lay asleep under the upturned root of a prostrate oak, we would work with a dull jack-knife day and night-month in and month out-through summer’s sun and winter’s storm-to sever that giant trunk, and let that mighty root, clasping its mountain of inverted earth, back into the position assigned to it by nature and by nature’s God!

 

. . . . We like a liar-a thoroughly conscientious, industrious, and ingenious liar. Not your ordinary prevaricator, who skirts along the coast of truth, keeping ever within sight of the headlands and promontories of probability-whose excursions are limited to short, fair-weather reaches into the ocean of imagination, and who paddles for port as if the devil were after him whenever a capful of wind threatens a storm of exposure; but a bold, sea-going liar, who spurns a continent, striking straight out for blue water, with his eyes fixed upon the horizon of boundless mendacity.

We have found such a one, and our hat is at half-mast in token of profound esteem and conscious inferiority. This person gravely tells us that at the burning of the Archiepiscopal Palace at Bourges, among other valuable manuscripts destroyed was the original death-warrant of Jesus Christ, signed at Jerusalem by one Capel, and dated U. C. 783. Not only so, but he kindly favours us with a literal translation of it!

One cannot help warming up to a man who can lie like that. Talk about Chatterton’s Rowley deception, Macpherson’s Ossian fraud, or Locke’s moon hoax! Compared with this tremendous fib they are as but the stilly whisper of a hearth-stone cricket to the shrill trumpeting of a wounded elephant-the piping of a sick cocksparrow to the brazen clang of a donkey in love!

 

. . . . For the memory of the late John Ridd, of Illinois, we entertain the liveliest contempt. Mr. Ridd recently despatched himself with a firearm for the following reasons, set forth in a letter that he left behind.

“Two years ago I discovered that I was worthless. My great failings are insincerity of character and sly ugliness. Any one who watched me a little while would discover my unenviable nature.”

Now, it is not that Mr. Ridd was worthless that we hold his memory in reprobation; nor that he was insincere, nor sly, nor ugly. It is because possessing these qualities he was fool enough to think they disqualified him for the duties of life, or stood in the way of his being an ornament to society and an honour to his country.

 

. . . . “About the first of next month,” says a pious contemporary, “we shall discontinue the publication of our paper in this city, and shall remove our office and fixtures to — where we hope for a blessing upon our work, and a share of advertising patronage.”

A numerous editorial staff of intelligent jackasses will accompany the caravan. In imagination we behold them now, trudging gravely along behind the moving office fixtures, their goggle eyes cast down in Christian meditation, their horizontal ears flopping solemnly in unison with their measured tread. Ever and anon the leader halts, uprolls the speculative eye, arrests the oscillation of the ears, laying them rigidly back along the neck, exalts the conscious tail, drops the lank jaw, and warbles a psalm of praise that shakes the blind hills from their eternal repose. His companions take up the parable in turn, “and the echoes, huddling in affright, like Odin’s hounds,” go baying down the valleys and clamouring amongst the pines, like a legion of invisible fiends after a strange cat. Then again all is hush, and tramp, and sanctity, and flop, and holy meditation! And so the pilgrimage is accomplished. Selah! Hee-haw!

 

. . . . A man in California has in his possession the rope with which his father was hanged by a vigilance committee in ‘49 for horse-stealing. He keeps it neatly coiled away in an old cheese~box, and every Sunday morning he lays his left hand reverently upon it, and with uncovered head and a look of stern determination in his eye, raises his right to heaven, and swears by an avenging God it served the old man right!

It has not been deemed advisable to put this dutiful son under bonds to keep the peace.

 

. . . . A contemporary has some elaborate obituary commendation of a boy seven years of age, who was “a child of more than ordinary sprightliness, loved the Bible, and was deeply impressed with a veneration for holy things.”

Now we would sorrowfully ask our contemporary if he thinks flattery like this can soothe the dull cold ear of young Dobbin? Dobbin père may enjoy it as light and entertaining reading, but when the resurrecting angel shall stir the dust of young Theophilus with his foot, and sing out “get up, Dobbin,” we think that sprightly youth will whimper three times for molasses gingerbread before he will signify an audible aspiration for the Bible. A sweet-tooth is often mistaken for early piety, and licking a sugar archangel may be easily construed as veneration for holy things.

 

. . . . A young physician of Troy became enamoured of a rich female patient, and continued his visits after she was convalescent. During one of these he had the misfortune to give her the small-pox, having neglected to change his clothes after calling on another patient enjoying that malady. The lady had to be removed to the pest-house, where the stricken medico sedulously attends her for nothing. His generosity does not end here: he declares that should she recover he will marry her-if she be not too badly pitted.

Apparently the legal profession does not enjoy a monopoly of all the self-sacrifice that is current in the world.

 

. . . . A young woman stood before the mirror with a razor. Pensively she twirled the unaccustomed instrument in her jewelled fingers, fancying her smooth cheek clothed with a manly beard. In imagination she saw her pouting lips shaded by the curl of a dark moustache, and her eyes grew dim with tears that it was not, never could be, so. And the mirrored image wept back at her a silent sob, the echo of her grief.

“Ah,” she sighed, “why did not God make me a man? Must I still drag out this hateful, whiskerless existence?”

The girlish tears welled up again and overran her eyes. Thoughtfully she crossed her right hand over to her left ear; carefully but timidly she placed the keen, cold edge of the steel against the smooth alabaster neck, twisted the fingers of her other hand into her long black hair, drew back her head and ripped away. There was an apparition in that mirror as of a ripe watermelon opening its mouth to address a public meeting; there were the thud and jar of a sudden sitting down; and when the old lady came in from frying doughnuts in the adjoining room she found something that seemed to interest her-something still and warm and wet-something kind of doubled up.

Ah! poor old wretch! your doughnuts shall sizzle and sputter and swim unheeded in their grease; but the beardless jaw that should have wagged filially to chew them is dropped in death; the stomach which they should have distended is crinkled and dry for ever!

 

. . . . Miss Olive Logan’s lecture upon “girls” has suggested to the writer the propriety of delivering one upon “boys.” He doesn’t know anything about boys, and is therefore entirely unprejudiced. He was never a boy himself-has always been just as old as he is now; though the peculiar vagueness of his memory previously to the time of building the pyramid of Cheops, and his indistinct impressions as to the personal appearance of Job, lead to the suspicion that his faculties at that time were partially undeveloped. He regards himself as the only lecturer extant who can do justice to boys; and he prefers to do it with an axe-handle, but is willing, like Olive Logan, to sacrifice his mere preferences for the purpose of making money.

This lecture will take place as soon as a sum of money has been sent to this office sufficiently large to justify him in renting a hall for one hour’s uninterrupted profanity-sixty minutes of careful, accurate, and elaborate cursing. Admission-all the money you have about you. Boys will be charged in proportion to their estimated depravity; fifty dollars a head for the younger sorts, and from five hundred to one thousand for those more advanced in general diabolism.

 

. . . . Some women in New York have set the fashion of having costly diamonds set into their front teeth. The attention of robbers and garotters is called to this fact, with the recommendation that no greater force be used than is necessary. The use of the ordinary bludgeon or slung shot would be quite needless; a gentle tap on the head with a clay pipe or a toothpick will place the victim in the proper condition to be despoiled. Great care should be exercised in extracting the jewels; instead of the teeth being knocked inwards, as in ordinary cases of mere purposeless mangling, they should be artistically lifted out by inserting the point of a crowbar into the mouth and jumping on the other end.

 

. . . . The Coroner having broken his leg, inquests will hereafter be held by the Justices of the Peace. People intending to commit suicide will confer a favour by worrying along until the Coroner shall recover, as the Justices are all new to the business. The cold, uncharitable world is tolerably hard to endure, but if unfortunates will secure some respectable employment and go to work at it they will be surprised to find how glibly the moments will glide away. The Coroner will probably be ready for their carcases in about four weeks, and it would be well not to bind themselves to service for a longer period, lest he should find it necessary to send for them and do their little business himself. A fair supply of street-cadavers and water-corpses can usually be counted on, but it is absolutely necessary to have a certain proportion of suicides.

 

. . . . John Reed, of Illinois, is a man who knows his rights, and knowing dares maintain. Having communicated to a young lady his intention of conferring upon her the honour of his company at a Fourth of July celebration, John was pained and disgusted to hear the proposal quietly declined. John went thoughtfully away to a neighbour who keeps a double-shotgun. This he secured, and again sought the object of his hopeless preference. The object was seated at the dinner-table contending with her lobscouse, and did not feel his presence near. Mr. Reed poised and sighted his artillery, and with the very natural remark, “I think this fetcher,” he exploded the twin charges. A moment later might have been seen the rare spectacle of a headless young lady sitting bolt upright at table, spooning a wad of hash into the top of her neck. The wall opposite presented the appearance of having been bombarded with fresh livers and baptized with sausage-meat.

No one in the vicinity slept any that night. They were busy getting ready for the Fourth: the gentlemen going about inviting the ladies to attend the celebration, and the ladies hastily and unconditionally accepting.

 

. . . . In answer to the ladies who are always bothering him for a photograph, Mr. Grile hopes to satisfy all parties by the following meagre description of his charms.

In person he is rather thin early in the morning, and a trifle corpulent after dinner; in complexion pale, with a suspicion of ruby about the gills. He wears his hair brown, and parted crosswise of his remarkably fine head. His eyes are of various colours, but mostly bottle-green, with a glare in them reminding one of incipient hydrophobia-from which he really suffers. A permanent depression in the bridge of his nose was inherited from a dying father what time the son mildly petitioned for a division of the estate to which he and his seventeen brothers were about to become the heirs. The mouth is gentlemanly capacious, indicative of high breeding and feeding; the under jaw projects slightly, forming a beautiful natural reservoir for the reception of beer and other liquids. The forehead retreats rapidly whenever a creditor is met, or an offended reader espied coming toward the office.

His legs are of unequal length, owing to his constant habit of using one of them to kick people who may happen to present a fairer mark than the nearest dog. His hand is remarkably slender and white, and is usually inserted in another man’s pocket. In dress he is wonderfully fastidious, preferring to wear nothing but what is given him. His gait is something between those of a mud-turtle and a jackass-rabbit, verging closely on to the latter at periods of supposed personal danger, as before intimated.

In conversation he is animated and brilliant, some of his lies being quite equal to those of Coleridge or Bolingbroke; but in repose he resembles nothing so much as a heap of old clothes. In conclusion, his respect for letter-writing ladies is so great that he would not touch one of them with a ten-foot pole.

 

. . . . Only one hundred and ten thousand pious pilgrims visited Mount Ararat in a body this year. The urbane and gentlemanly proprietors of the Ark Tavern complain that their receipts have hardly been sufficient to pay for the late improvements in this snug retreat. These gentlemen continue to keep on hand their usual assortment of choice wines, liquors, and cigars.

Opposite the Noah House, Shem Street, between Ham and Japhet.

 

. . . . It is commonly supposed that President Lopez, of Paraguay, was killed in battle; but after reading the following slander upon him and his mother, written some time since by a friend of ours, it is difficult to believe he did not commit suicide:—

“The telegraph informs us that President Lopez, of Paraguay, has again murdered his mother for conspiring against his life. That sprightly, and active old lady has now been executed three thousand times for the same offence. She is now eighty-three years old, and erect as a telegraph pole. Time writes no wrinkles on her awful brow, and her teeth are as sound as on the day of her birth. She rises every morning punctually at four o’clock and walks ten miles; then, after a light breakfast, enters her study and proceeds to hatch out a new conspiracy against her first born. About 2 P. M. it is discovered, and she is publicly executed. A light toast and a cup of strong tea finish the day’s business; she retires at seven and goes to sleep with her mouth open. She has pursued this life with the most unfaltering regularity for the last fifty years. It is only by this unswerving adherence to hygienic principles that she has attained her present green old age.”

 

. . . . There is a person resident in Stockton Street whom we cannot regard with feelings other than those of lively disapproval. It is not that the woman-for this person is a mature female — ever did us any harm, or is likely to; that is not our grievance. What we seriously object to and actively contemn-yea, bitterly denounce-is the nose of her. So mighty a nose we have never beheld-so spacious, and open, and roomy a human snout the unaided imagination is impotent to picture. It rises from her face like a rock from a troubled sea-grand, serene, majestic! It turns up at an angle that fills the spectator with admiration, and impresses him with an awe that is speechless.

But we have no space for a description of this eternal proboscis. Suffice it that its existence is a standing menace to society, a threat to civilization, and a danger to commerce. The woman who will harbour and cherish such an organ is no better than a pirate. We do not know who she is, and we have no desire to know. We only know that all the angels could not pull us past her house with a chain cable, without giving us one look at that astounding feature. It is the one prominent landmark of the nineteenth century-the special wonder of the age-the solitary marvel of a generation!

We would give anything to see her blow it.

 

. . . . At the Coroner’s inquest in the case of John Harvey there was considerable difficulty in ascertaining the cause of death, but as one witness testified that the deceased was pounding fulminate of mercury at the Powder Works just previously to his lamented demise, there is good reason to believe he was hoist into heaven with his own petard. In fact, such fractions of him as have come to hand, up to date, seem to confirm this view. This evidence is rather disjointed and fragmentary, but it is sufficient to discourage the brutal practice of pounding fulminate of mercury when our streets and Sunday-schools are swarming with available Chinaman who seldom hit back.

 

. . . . We find the following touching tale in all the newspapers. It belongs to that class of tales concerning which the mildest doubt is hateful blasphemy.

“A little girl in Ithaca, just before she died, exclaimed: ‘Papa, take hold of my hand and help me across.’ Her father had died two months before. Did she see him?”

There is not a doubt of it; but interested relatives have somewhat misstated the little girl’s exclamation, which was this:—

“Papa, take hold of my hand, and I will help you out of that.”

 

. . . . We get the most distressing accounts of the famine in Persia. It is said that cannibalism is as common among the starving inhabitants as pork-eating in California.

This is very sad; it shows either a very low state of Persian morality or a conspicuous lack of Persian ingenuity. They ought to manage it as the conscientious Indians do. In time of famine these gentle creatures never disgrace themselves by feasting upon each other: they permit their dogs to devour the dead, and then they eat the dogs.

 

. . . . An old lady was set upon by a fiend in human apparel, and remorselessly kissed in the presence of her daughter.

This happened a few days since in Iowa, where the fiend now lies buried. Any man who is so dead to shame, and so callous of soul generally, as to force his unwelcome endearments upon a poor, defenceless old lady, while her beautiful young daughter stands weeping by, equally defenceless, deserves pretty much all the evil that can be done to him. Splitting him like a fish is so disgracefully inadequate a punishment, that the man who should administer it might justly be regarded as an accomplice.

 

. . . . From London we have intelligence of the stabbing to death of a man by mistake. His assassin mistook him for a person related to himself, whose loss would be his own financial gain. Fancy the utter dejection of this stabber when he discovered the absurd blunder he had committed! We believe a slip like that would justify a man in throwing down the knife and discarding murder for ever; while two such errors would be ample excuse for him to go into some kind of business.

 

. . . . A small but devout congregation were at worship. When it had become a free exhibition, in which any brother could enact a part, a queer-looking person got up and began a pious and learned exhortation. He spake for some two hours, and was listened to with profound attention, his discourse punctuated with holy groans and pious amens from an edified circle of the saintly. Tears fell as the gentle rains from heaven. Several souls were then and there snatched as brands from the eternal burning, and started on their way to heaven rejoicing. At the end of the second hour, and as the inspired stranger approached “eighty-seventhly,” some one became curious to know who the teacher was, when lo! it turned out that he was an escaped lunatic from the Asylum.

The curses of the elect were not loud but deep. They fumed with exceeding wrath, and slopped over with pious indignation at the swindle put upon them. The inspired, however, escaped, and was afterwards captured in a cornfield.

The funeral was unostentatious.

 

. . . . We hear a great deal of sentiment with regard to the last solar eclipse. Considerable ink has been consumed in setting forth the terrible and awe-inspiring features of the scene. As there will be no other good one this season, the following recipe for producing one artificially will be found useful:— Suspend a grindstone from the centre of a room. Take a cheese of nearly the same size, and after blacking one side of it, pass it slowly across the face of the grindstone and observe the effect in a mirror placed opposite, on the cheese side. The effect will be terrific, and may be heightened by taking a rum punch just at the instant of contact. This plan is quite superior to that of nature, for with several cheeses graduated in size, all known varieties of eclipse may be presented. In writing up the subsequent account, a great many interesting phenomena may be introduced quite impossible to obtain either by this or any other process.

 

. . . . We have observed with considerable impatience that the authors of Sunday School books do not seem to know anything; there is no reason why these pleasant volumes should not be made as effective as they are deeply interesting. The trouble is in the method of treating wicked children; instead of being destroyed by appalling calamities, they should simply be made painfully ridiculous.

For example, the little scoundrel who climbs up an apple-tree to plunder a bird’s-nest, ought never to fall and break his neck. He should be permitted to garner his unholy harvest of eggs in his pocket, then lose his balance, catch the seat of his pantaloons on a knot-hole, and hang doubled up, with the smashed eggs trickling down his jacket, and getting into his hair and eyes. Then the good little girls should be lugged in, to poke fun at him, and ask him if he likes ’em hard or soft. This would be a most impressive warning.

The boy who neglects his prayers to go boating on a Sunday ought not to be drowned. He should be spilled out into the soft mud along shore, and stuck fast where the Sunday School scholars could pelt him with slush, and their teacher have a fair fling at him with a dead cat.

The small female glutton who steals jam in the pantry ought not to get poisoned. She should get after a pot of warm glue, which should be made to miraculously stiffen the moment she gets it into her mouth, and have to be gouged out of her with a chisel and hammer.

Then there is the swearing party, who is struck by lightning-a very shallow and unprofitable device. He should open his face to swear, dislocate his jaw, be unable to get closed up, and the rats should get in at night, make nests there, and breed.

There are other suggestions that might be made, but these will give a fair idea of our method, the foundation of which is the substitution of potent ridicule for the current grave but imbecile rebuke. It may be gratifying to learn that we are embodying our views in a whole library of Sunday School literature, adapted to the meanest capacity, and therefore equally edifying to pupil, pastor, and parent.

 

. . . . A young correspondent, who has lately read a great deal in the English papers about “baby-farming,” wishes to know what that may be. It is a new method of agriculture, in which the young of our species are used for manure.

The babies are collected each day and put into large vats containing equal parts of hydrobicarbonate of oxygenated sulphide, and oxygenated sulphide of hydrobicarbonate, where they are left to soak overnight. In the morning they are carefully macerated in a mortar and are then poured into shallow copper pans, where they remain until all the liquid portions have been evaporated by the sun. The residuum is then scraped out, and after the addition of a certain proportion of quicklime the whole is thrown away. Ordinary bone dust and charcoal are then used for manure, and the baby farmers seldom fail of getting a good crop of whatever they plant, provided they stick the seeds in right end up.

It will be seen that the result depends more upon the hydrobicarbonate than upon the infants; there isn’t much virtue in babies. But then our correspondent should remember that there is none at all in adults.

 

. . . . A young woman writes to a contemporary, desiring to learn if it is true that kissing a dead man will cure the tooth-ache. It might; it sometimes makes a great difference whether you take your medicine hot or cold. But we would earnestly advise her to try kissing a multitude of live men before taking so peculiar a prescription. It is our impression that corpses are absolutely worthless for kissing purposes, and if one can find no better use for them, they might as well be handed over to the needy and deserving worm.

 

. . . . Mr. Knettle, deceased, became irritated, and fired three shots from a revolver into the head of his coy sweetheart, while she was making believe to run away from him. It has seldom been our lot-except in the cases of a few isolated policemen-to record so perfectly satisfactory target practice. If that man had lived he would have made his mark as well as hit it. He died by his own hand at the beginning of a brilliant career, and although we cannot hope to emulate his shooting, we may cherish the memory of his virtues just as if we could bring down our girl every time at ten paces.

 

. . . . A pedagogue has been sentenced to the county gaol, for six months, for whipping a boy in a brutal manner. The public heartily approves the sentence, and, quite naturally, we dissent. We know nothing whatever about this particular case, but upon general principles we favour the extreme flagellation of incipient Man. In our own case the benefit of the system is apparent; had not our pious parent administered daily rebukes with such foreign bodies as he could lay his hands on we might have grown up a Presbyterian deacon.

Look at us now!

 

. . . . A man who played a leading part in a late railroad accident had had his life insured for twenty thousand dollars. Unfortunately the policy expired just before he did, and he had neglected to renew it. This is a happy illustration of the folly of procrastination. Had he got himself killed a few days sooner his widow would have been provided with the means of setting up housekeeping with another man.

 

. . . . People ought not to pack cocked pistols about in the hip pockets of their trousers; the custom is wholly indefensible. Such is the opinion of the last man who leaned up against the counter in a Marysville drinking-saloon for a quiet chat with the barkeeper.

The odd boot will be given to the poor.

 

. . . . A man ninety-seven years of age has just died in the State of New York. The Sun says he bad conversed with both President Washington and President Grant.

If there were any further cause of death it is not stated.

 

. . . . The letter following was written by the Rev. Reuben Hankerlockew, a Persian Christian, in relation to the late famine in his country. The Rev. gentleman took a hopeful view of affairs.

“Peace be with you-bless your eyes! Our country is now suffering the direst of calamities, compared with which the punishment of Tarantulus” (we suppose our correspondent meant Tantalus) “was nice, and the agony of a dyspeptic ostrich in a junk shop is a condition to be coveted. We are in the midst of plenty, but we can’t get anything that seems to suit. The supply of old man is practically unlimited, but it is too tough to chew. The market stalls are full of fresh girl, but the scarcity of salt renders the meat entirely useless for table purposes. Prime wife is cheap as dirt-and about as good. There is a ‘corner’ in pickled baby, and nobody can ‘fill.’ The same article on the hoof is all held by a ring of speculators at figures which appal the man of moderate means. Of the various brands of ‘cemetery,’ that of Japan is most abundant, owing to the recent pestilence, but it is, fishy and rank. As for grain, or vegetable filling of any kind, there is hone in Persia, except the small lot I have on hand, which will be disposed of in limited quantities for ready money. But don’t you foreigners bother about us-we shall get along all right-until I have disposed of my cereals. Persia does not need any foreign corn until after that.”

It is improbable that the Rev. gentleman himself perished of starvation.

 

. . . . We are filled with unspeakable gratification to record the death of that double girl who has been in everybody’s mouth for months. This shameless little double-ender, with two heads and one body-two cherries on a single stem, as it were-has been for many moons afflicting our simple soul with an itching desire that she might die-the nasty pig! Two half-girls, joined squarely at the waist, and without any legs, are not a pleasant type of the coming woman.

Had she lived, she would have been a bone of social, theological, and political contention, and we should never have heard the end-of which she had two alike. If she had lived to marry, some mischief-making scoundrel would have procured the indictment of her husband for bigamy. The preachers would have fought for her, and if converted separately, her Methodist end might have always been thrashing her Episcopal end, or vice versâ. When she came to serve on a jury, nobody could have decided if there ought to be eleven others or only ten; and if she ever voted twice, the opposite party would have had her up for repeating; and if only once, she would have been read out of her own, for criminal apathy in the exercise of the highest duty, etc.

We bless God for taking her away, though what He can want with her is as difficult a problem as herself or Himself. She will have to wear two golden crowns, thus entailing a double expense; she wont be able to fly any, and having no legs, she must be constantly watched to keep her from rolling out of heaven. She will just have to lie on a soft cloud in some out-of-the-way corner, and eternally toot two trumpets, without other exercise. If Gabriel is the sensible fellow we think him, he wont wake her at the Resurrection.

Look at this infant in any light you please, and it is evident that she was a dead failure and is yet. She did but one good thing, and that was to teach the Siamese Twins how to die. After they shall have taken the hint, we hope to have no more foolish experiments in double folks born that way. Married couples are sufficiently unpleasing.

 

. . . . The head biblesharp of the New York Independent resigned his position, because the worldly proprietor would insist upon running the commercial column of that sheet in a secular manner, with an eye to the goods that perish. The godly party wished him to ignore the filthy lucre of this world, and lay up for himself treasures in heaven; but the sordid wretch would seize every covert opportunity to reach out his little muckrake after the gold of the gentile, to the neglect of the things that appertain unto salvation. Therefore did the conscientious driver of the piety-quill betake himself to some new field.

Will the editors of all similar sheets do likewise? or have they more elastic consciences? For, behold, the muckrake is likewise visible in all.

 

. . . . Some of the Red Indians on the plains have discarded the songs of their fathers, and adopted certain of Dr. Watts’s hymns, which they howl at their scalp-dances with much satisfaction.

This is encouraging, certainly, but we dare not counsel the good missionaries to pack up their libraries and go home with the impression that the noble red is thoroughly converted. There yet remains a work to do; he must be taught to mortify, instead of paint, his countenance, and induced to abandon the savage vice of stealing for the Christian virtue of cheating. Likewise he must be made to understand that although conjugal fidelity is highly commendable, all civilized nations are distinguished by a faithful adherence to the opposite practice.

 

. . . . Some raving maniac sends us a mass of stuff, which savours strongly of Walt Whitman, and which, probably for that reason, he calls poetry. We have room for but a single bit of description, which we print as an illustration of the depth of literary depravity which may be attained by a “poet” in love:—

“Behold, thou art fair, my love: behold, thou art fair; thou hast dove’s eyes within thy locks; thy hair is as a flock of goats that appear from Mt. Gilead. Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn, which came up from the washing; whereof every one bear twins, and none is barren among them. Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet, and thy speech is comely; thy temples are like a piece of pomegranate within thy locks. Thy neck is a tower of ivory; thine eyes like the fishpools of Heshbon, by the gate of Bath-rabbim; thy nose is as the tower of Lebanon looking towards Damascus.”

Really, we think that will do for one instalment. What the mischief this “poet” means, with his goat’s hair, sheep’s teeth, and temples like a piece of pomegranate, is quite beyond our mental reach. We would suggest that the ignorance of English grammar displayed in the phrase “every one bear twins,” is not atoned for by comparing his mistress’s eyes to a duck pond, and her nose to the “tower of Lebanon looking towards Damascus.” The latter simile is suggestive of unpleasant consequences to the inhabitants of that village in case the young lady should decide to blow that astounding feature! Our very young contributor will consider himself dismissed with such ignominy as is implied by our frantic indifference.

 

. . . . A liberal reward will be paid by the writer for a suitably vituperative epithet to be applied to the ordinary street preacher. The writer has himself laboured with so unflagging a zeal in the pursuit of the proper word, has expended the midnight oil with so lavish and matchless a prodigality, has kneaded his brain with such a singular forgetfulness of self-that he is gone clean daft. And all, without adequate result! From the profoundest deep of his teeming invention he succeeded in evolving only such utterly unsatisfying results as “rhinoceros,” “polypus,” and “sheeptick” in the animal kingdom, and “rhubarb,” “snakeroot,” and “smartweed” in the vegetable. The mineral world was ransacked, but gave forth only “old red sandstone,” which is tolerably severe, but had been previously used to stigmatize a member of the Academy of Sciences.

Now, what we wish to secure is a word that shall contain within itself all the essential principles of downright abuse; the mere pronouncing of which in the public street would subject one to the inconvenience of being rent asunder by an infuriated populace-something so atrociously apt and so exquisitely diabolical that any person to whom it should be applied would go right away out and kick himself to death with a jackass. We covenant that the inventor shall be slain the moment we are in possession of his infernal secret, as life would of course be a miserable burden to him ever afterward.

With a calm reliance upon the fertile scurrility of our readers, we leave the matter in their hands, commending their souls to the merciful God who contrived them.

 

. . . . We have received from a prominent clergyman a long letter of earnest remonstrance against what he is pleased to term our “unprovoked attacks upon God’s elect.”

We emphatically deny that we have ever made any unprovoked attacks upon them. “God’s elect” are always irritating us. They are eternally lying in wait with some monstrous absurdity, to spring it upon us at the very moment when we are least prepared. They take a fiendish delight in torturing us with tantrums, galling us with gammon, and pelting us with platitudes. Whenever we disguise ourself in the seemly toggery of the godly, and enter meekly into the tabernacle, hoping to pass unobserved, the parson is sure to detect us and explode a bombful of bosh upon our devoted head. No sooner do we pick up a religious weekly than we stumble and sprawl through a bewildering succession of inanities, manufactured expressly to ensnare our simple feet. If we take up a tract we are laid out cold by an apostolic knock straight from the clerical shoulder. We cannot walk out of a pleasant Sunday without being keeled Over by a stroke of pious lightning flashed from the tempestuous eye of an irate churchman at our secular attire. Should we cast our thoughtless glance upon the demure Methodist Rachel we are paralysed by a scowl of disapprobation, which prostrates like the shock of a gymnotus; and any of our mild pleasantry at the expense of young Squaretoes is cut short by a Bible rebuke, shot out of his mouth like a rock from a catapult.

Is it any wonder that we wax gently facetious in conversing of “the elect?”— that in our weak way we seek to get even? Now, good clergyman, go thou to the devil, and leave us to our own devices; or an offended journalist shall skewer thee upon his spit, and roast thee in a blaze of righteous indignation.

 

. . . . The New York Tribune, descanting upon the recent national misfortune by which the writer’s red right hand was quietly chewed by an envious bear, says it cannot commend the writer’s example, but hopes “his next appearance in print may edify his readers on the dangers of such a practice.”

We had not hitherto deemed it necessary to raise a warning voice to a universe not much given to fooling with bears anyhow, but embrace this opportunity to declare ourself firmly and unalterably opposed to the whole business. We plant our ample feet squarely upon the platform of non-intervention, so far as affects the social economy and individual idiosyncrasies of bears. But if the Tribune man expects a homily upon the sin of feeding oneself in courses to wild animals, he is informed that we waste no words upon the senseless wretch who is given to that species of iniquity. We regard him with ineffable self-contempt.

 

. . . . A young girl in Grass Valley having died, her father wrote some verses upon the occasion, in which she is made to discourse thus:— “Then do not detain me, for why should I stay When cherubs in heaven call me away? Earth has no pleasure, no joys that compare, With the joys that await us in heaven so fair.”

As the little darling was only two years and a fraction of age it is tolerably impossible to divine upon what authority she sought to throw discredit upon the joys of earth: her observation having been limited to mother’s milk and treacle toffy. But that’s just the way with professing Christians; they are always disparaging the delights which they are unfitted to enjoy.

 

. . . . The Rev. Dr. Cunningham instructs his congregation that it is not enough to give to the Church what they can spare, but to give and keep giving until they feel it to be a burden and a sacrifice. These, brethren, are the inspired words of one who has a deep and abiding pecuniary interest in what he is talking about. Such a man cannot err, except by asking too little; and empires have risen and perished, islands have sprung from the sea, mountains have burnt their bowels out, and rivers have run dry, since a man of God has committed this error.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/bierce/ambrose/fiends-delight/chapter3.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31