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Quartering upon Friends by Jonathan F. Kelley

 

City-bred people have a pious horror of the country in winter, and no great regard for country visitors at any time, however much they may “let on” to the contrary.

In rushing hot weather, when the bricks and mortar, the stagnated, oven-like air of the crowded city threatens to bake, parboil, or give the “citizens” the yellow fever, then we are very apt to think of plain Aunt Polly, rough-hewed Uncle John, and the bullet-headed, uncombed, smock-frocked cousins, nephews, and nieces, at their rural homes, amid the fragrant meadows and umbrageous woods; the cool, silver streams and murmuring brooks of the glorious country. Then, the poetic sunbeams and moonshine of fancy bring to the eye and heart all or a part of the glories and beauties, uses and purposes in which God has invested the ruraldom.

Now, our country friends are mostly desirous, candidly so, to have their city friends come and see them—not merely pop visits, but bring your whole family, and stay a month! This they may do, and will do, and can afford it, as it is more convenient to one's pocket-book, on a farm, to quarter a platoon of your friends than to perform the same operation in the city, where it is apt to give your purse the tick-dollar-owe in no time.

It was not long since, during the prevalence of a hot summer, that Mrs. Triangle one morning said to her stewing husband, who was in no wise troubled with a surplus of the circulating medium—

“Triangle, it's on-possible for us to keep the children well and quiet through this dreadful hot weather. We must go into the country. The Joneses and Pigwigginses and Macwackinses, and—and—everybody has gone out into the country, and we must go, too; why can't we?”

“Why can't we?” mechanically echoed Triangle, who just then was deeply absorbed in a problem as to whether or not, considering the prices of coal, potatoes, house-rents, leather, and “dry goods,” he would fetch up in prison or the poor-house first! It was a momentous question, and to his wife's proposal of a fresh detail of domestic expense, Triangle responded—

“Why can't we?”

“Yes, that's what I'd like to know—why can't we?”

“We can't, Mrs. Triangle,” decidedly answered her lord and master.

Now Mrs. T., being but a woman, very naturally went on to give Mr. T. a Caudle lecture half an hour long, winding up with one of those time-honored perquisites of the female sex—a good cry.

Poor Triangle put on his hat and marched down to his bake-oven of an “office,” to plan business and smoke his cigar. Triangle came home to tea, and saw at a glance that something must be done. Mrs. Triangle was to be “compromised,” or far hotter than even the hot, hot weather would be his domicile for the balance of the season. Triangle thought it over, as he nibbled his toast and sipped his hot Souchong.

“My dear,” said he, pushing aside his cup, and tilting himself upon the “hind legs” of his chair—“business is very dull, the weather is intolerable, I know you and the children would be much benefitted by a trip into the country—why can't we go?”

“Why can't we?—that's what I'd like to know!” was the ready response of Mrs. T.

“Well, we can go. My friend Jingo has as fine a place in the country as ever was, anywhere; he has asked me again and again to come down in the summer, and bring all the family. Now we'll go; Jingo will be delighted to see us; and we'll have a good, pleasant time, I'll warrant.”

Mrs. Triangle was delighted; soon all the clouds of her temper were dispersed, and like people “cut out for each other,” Triangle and his wife sat and planned the details of the tour to Jingo Hill Farm. Frederic Antonio Gustavus was to be rigged out in new boots, hat, and breeches. Maria Evangeline Roxana Matilda was to be fitted out in Polka boots, gipsey bonnet, and Bloomer pantalettes, with an entire invoice of handkerchiefs, scarfs, ribbons, gloves, and hosiery for “mother,” little Georgiana Victorine Rosa Adelaide, and the baby, Henry Rinaldo Mercutio. After three days' onslaught upon poor Triangle's pockets, with any quantity of “fuss and feathers,” Mrs. Triangle pronounced the caravan ready to move. But just as all was ready, Bridget Durfy, the maid-of-all-work, who was to accompany them on the expedition as supervisor of the children, threw up her engagement.

“Plaze the pigs,” said Biddy; “it's mesilf as niver likes the counthry, at all; an' I'll jist be afther not goin', ma'm, wid yez!”

Here was a go—or rather a “no go!” Triangle had bought tickets for all, and ordered the carriage at four; it was now three P. M., of a hot, roasting day. It would be “on-possible,” as Mrs. T. said, to go without a girl; so poor, sweltering Triangle rushed down to the “Intelligence Office,” where, from the sweating mass of female humanity awaiting a market for their time and labor, Triangle selected a stout, hearty Irish blonde, warranted perfect, capable, kind, honest, and the Lord only knows how many virtues the keeper of an “Intelligence Office” will not swear belong to one of their stock in trade.

Away went Triangle, sweating and swearing; the Irish maiden, swinging a bundle in one hand and a flaring bandanna in the other, following after her patron with a duck-waddle; and finally the carriage came; all got in but Triangle, who started on foot to the depot, carrying his double-barrelled gun and leading an ugly dog, which he rejoiced in believing was a full-blooded setter, though the best posted dog-fanciers assured him it was a cross between a tan-yard cur and a sheep-stealer! But, after a world of motion and commotion—on the part of Triangle, about the dog, tickets and baggage, and Mrs. Triangle, about the children, satchels, her new gown, and the sleepy Irish girl—they found themselves whisked over the rails, and after some three hours' carriage, they were dumped down in the vicinity of Jingo Hall, where they found the “private conveyance” of the proprietor of Jingo Hill Farm waiting to carry them, bandbox and bundle, rag-tag and bobtail, to Jingo Hall.

The carriage being overfull, Triangle concluded to walk up, stretch his legs, try his dog and gun, and have a pop at the game. But, alas, for the villanous dog; no sooner had he got loose and scampered off up the road, than he sees a flock of sheep some distance across the fields, and away he pitched. The sheep ran, he after the sheep; and poor Triangle after his dog.

“Hay! you Ponto—here—hay—Ponto-o-o! Hey, boy, come here, you dog—hi! hi!—do you hear-r-r?”

But Ponto was off, and after a run of half a mile, he came up with a lamb, and before Triangle could come to the rescue, Ponto had opened the campaign by killing sheep! Triangle was so put out about it that in wrath he up with his gun and was about to terminate the existence of the dog, but compromised the matter by hitting him a whack across the back with the barrels of his shooting-iron; in doing so, he broke off the stock, clean as a whistle! It is useless to deny that Triangle was mad; that he swore equal to an Erie Canal boatman; and that his fury so alarmed the dog that he took to his heels and went—as Triangle hoped—anywhere, head foremost.

[Illustration: “With a presence of mind truly unparalleled, she laid down 'baby' upon the grass, and made fight with 'the spiteful craturs.'”—Page 169.]

With a face as long as a boot-jack, quite tuckered out and disgusted with things as far as he had got, Triangle reached Jingo Hall, where he met the warm welcome of his friend, Major Jingo, and soon recuperated his good humor and physical activity by the contents of the Major's “well-stocked” wine-cellar. Ashamed of the facts of the case, Triangle trumped up a cock-and-bull story about the dog and gun.

After a season, the Triangles got settled away, and the first day or two passed without anything extraordinary turning up, if we may except the upturning of several flower-pots and hen's nests by the children. But the third day opened ominously. Triangle's dog was found with one of the Major's dead lambs under convoy, and the Irish hostler had caught him, tied him up in the stable, and given him such a dressing that Ponto's soul-case was nearly beaten out of him!

The next item was a yowl in the garden! Everybody rushed out—Mrs. Triangle in her excitement, lest something had happened to “baby,” and Nora, the girl, struck the centre-table, upset the “Astral,” and not only demolished that ancient piece of furniture, but spilled enough thick oil over the gilt-edged literature, table-cloth, and carpet, to make a barrel of soft soap.

The Irish girl came bounding, screeching forth! She had been sauntering through the garden, and ran against the bee-hives, when a bee up and at her. With a presence of mind truly unparalleled, she laid down “baby” upon the grass, and made fight with “the spiteful craturs;” and of course she got her hands full, was beset by tens and hundreds, and was stung in as many places by the pugnacious “divils.” Nora was done for. She went to bed; “baby” was found all right, laughing “fit to break its yitty hearty party, at naughty Nora Dory,” as Mrs. Triangle very naturally expressed it.

These two tableaux had hardly reached their climax, when in rushed Frederic Antonio Gustavus, with his capacious apron full of “birds he killed in the yard, down by the barns.” Poor Jingo! and we may add, poor Mrs. Jingo! for a favorite brood of the finest fowls in the country had been exterminated by the chivalrous young Triangle, and in the bloom of his heroic act he dropped the dead game at the feet of his horror-stricken mother, and astonished father, and the Jingos.

That night the effect of stuffing with green fruit to utter suffocation manifested itself in a general and alarming cholera-morbus among the junior Triangles, and the whole house was up in arms.

In the midst of this, a fresh clamor broke out in Nora's chamber. A huge bat had got into her room, and so alarmed her, that she yelled worse, louder, and longer than seven evil ones.

It was a night of horror to the whole family—to everybody in and about Jingo Hall. The dogs set up a howl; the children bawled, cried, and took on; the Irish girl screeched; gin and laudanum, peppermint and “lollypops,” the de'il to pay and no pitch hot.

Triangle felt relieved when daylight came, and had it not been Sunday, he would have packed up and put back for the prosy office and stagnated quietude of the city. But it was Sunday, and after the children, Irish girl, and dogs had been partially quieted, down the carriage came to the door, and as many as could get into it of the Jingos and Triangles, rolled off to meeting.

Triangle and Jingo went to escape the din and noise of dressing “the babies,” &c.; and after the service was over, poor Triangle was taken aside by a tall, bony man, who reported himself in no very ceremonious manner as the proprietor of a flock of sheep scared to death, and one rare lamb killed—“by your dog!” Triangle owned to the soft impeachment, and “compromised” for a V.

Returned to Jingo Hall, another coup d'etat all around the lot had broken out. Evangeline Roxana Matilda Triangle had disappeared. The baby, Georgiana Victorine Rosa Adelaide, had fallen from a swing in the grove and dislocated her wrist, and flattened her pretty nose quite to her pretty face. Baby was very ill, and from the groans issuing from Nora's attic, it was not on-possible that she was sick as she could be. A general search took place for Evangeline Roxana Matilda, while Maj. Jingo mounted a horse and rode over to the village, to bring down a doctor for Georgiana Victorine Rosa Adelaide, “the baby,” and—Nora Dougherty.

A glance at the Irish girl convinced poor tried Triangle that she was a case—of small-pox.

Maj. Jingo returned, but without a medical adviser; the village Esculapius having gone off to the city. Things looked gloomy enough. Triangle felt “chawed up,” and wished he had been roasted alive in the city before venturing upon such a trip. But he felt he had a duty to perform, and he determined to put it through.

“Major, I'm very sorry, but the fact is”——

“Never mind, never mind, my dear fellow—no trouble to us.”

“But,” chokingly continued poor Triangle, “but, Major, the fact is, I—a—you've got a large family”——

“Never mind, my dear boy; don't say any more about it.”

“But to have the—a—the—small-pox”——

“What?” gasped the Major—“the—a”——

“Small-pox!” seriously enough responded Triangle.

“Small-pox! Who? Where?”

“Our Irish girl—up stairs—awful!”

“O, good Lord! Irish—up stairs—small-pox!” reiterated the really alarmed proprietor of Jingo Hall.

“I wouldn't have”—said Triangle.

“The small-pox in my house”—echoed Jingo.

“For all the blessed countries in the world!” passionately exclaimed Triangle.

“Heavens!” exclaimed the Major; “my wife has a greater dread of small-pox than yellow fever, or death itself!”

“What's to be done?” said poor Triangle.

“Remove the girl to an out-house, instantly!” said the Major, pacing up and down, in great furore.

“That's best, Major; go move her, at once.”

“Me? Me move her, sir?” said Jingo.

“Why who will, Major?” responded Triangle.

“Who? Why, you, of course.”

“Me?” exclaimed Triangle—“me? endanger my life, and the lives of all my family—me? No, sir, I'll—I'll—I'll be hanged if I do!”

“Blur a' nouns, zur!” bawled the Irish hostler, as he came trotting up to the front veranda, where Triangle and Jingo were discussing the transportation of small-pox—

“Blur a' nouns—the dog's loose!”

“Curse the dog!” said the Major.

“But, zur, it's raving mad, he is!”

“Mad! my dog?” cries Triangle.

“A mad dog, too!” exclaims the Major, in horror.

“O, too bad—horrible—wish I'd never seen”——

“Get your gun, quick—come on!” cried the Major.

“But, my dear Major, my gun's broke all to smash. O! that I had shot the blasted brute instead of breaking my gun!”

“Come on—never mind—seize a club, fork, or anything, and hunt around for the cursed dog. He'll bite some of our people, horses, or cattle.” And away ran the Major, with a bit of stick about the size of a fence-rail. Paddy made himself scarce, and Triangle, in agony, flew around to hunt up his daughter, whom they found asleep in a summer-house.

Mrs. Major Jingo, when she heard that the Irish girl had introduced the small-pox on Jingo Hill, liked to have fainted away; but, conquering her weakness, she ordered the carriage, and bundled herself and four children into it, so full of terror and alarm that she never so much as said—“Take care of yourself, Mrs. Triangle!” Maj. Jingo returned, after a fruitless search for Triangle's mad dog, and just as he entered the hall, the Irish girl came rushing down stairs, crying—

“O! murther, murther! I'm dead as a door-nail, entirely, wid dese pains in my face. Be gorra! O, murther!”

One look at the swollen and truly frightful face of the girl put the Major to his taps; and stopping but a moment to tell Triangle to make out the best he could, he left.

Next morning, bag and baggage, the Triangles vamosed. The poor girl having recovered from her attack of the bees, which had led to the alarm of small-pox, looked quite respectable. Never did a party enjoy home more completely than the Triangles after that. Triangle has a holy horror of trips to the country, and the Jingos are down on visitors from the city.

 
 
 

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