of Excitement by
A retrospective view of some ten or fifteen years, brings up a
wonderful heap of notions, which at their birth made quite a
different sensation from that which their bare remembrance would seem
to sanction now. The statement made in a morning paper before us, of
a fine horse being actually scared stone and instantaneously dead, by a
roaring and hissing locomotive, brings to mind a circumstance, which
though it did not exactly do our knitting, it came precious near
Some years ago, upon what was then considered the frontier of
Missouri, we chanced to be laid up with a game leg, in consequence of
a performance of a bullet-headed mule that we were endeavoring to
coerce at the end of a corn stalk, for his intervention in a fodder
stack to which he could lay no legitimate claim. About two miles from
our lodgings was a store, a grocery, shotecary pop, boots, hats,
gridirons, whiskey, powder and shot, &c., &c., and the post office.
About three times a week, we used to hobble down to this modern ark, to
read the news, see what was going on down in the world, andpass a few
hours with the proprietor of the store, who chanced to be a man with
whom we had had a former acquaintance in other climes. Well, one day,
we dropped down to the store, and found pretty much all the men
folksand they were not numerous around there, the houses or cabins
being rather scatteringgetting ready to go down the river (Missouri)
some ten miles, to see a notorious desperado stretch hemp. My friend
Captain V, the storekeeper, was about to go along too, and proposed
that we should mount and accompany him, orstay and tend store. We
accepted the latter proposition, as we were in no travelling kelter,
and had no taste for performances on the tight rope. Having officiated
for Captain Von several former occasions, we had the run of his
grocery and postal arrangements quite fluent enough to take
charge of all the trade likely to turn up that day; so the captain and
his friends started, promising a return before sunset.
One individual, living some seven miles up the road, called for his
newspaper, and got his jug filled, spent a couple of hours with usput
out, and was succeeded by two squalid Indians, with some skins to trade
for corn juice and tobacco; they cleared out, and about two or three P.
M., some movers came along; we had a little dicker with them,
and that closed up the business accounts of the day.
Having discussed all the availables, from the contents of the post
officeseven newspapers and four letters per quarter!to the crackers
and cheese, and business being essentially stagnated, we ups and lies
down upon the top of the counter, to take a nap. Captain V's store
was a log building, about 15 by 30, and stood near the edge of the
woods, and at least half a mile from any habitation, except the
schoolhouse and blacksmith's shop, two small huts, and at that
timein coventry. Captain Vwas a bachelor; he boardedthat is,
he took his meals at the nearest househalf a mile back from the wood,
and slept in his store. We soon fell into the soft soothing arms of
Morpheus, andslept. It was fine mild weatherSeptember, and, of
course, the door was wide open. How long we slept we were not at all
conscious, but were aroused by a heavy hand that gave us a hearty shake
by the shoulder, and in a rather sepulchral voice says
How are you?
Gods! we were up quick, for our sleep had been visited by dreams of
southwest tragedies, hanging scrapes, and other nightmare affairs, and
as we opened our eyes and caught a glimpse of the double-fisted,
cadaverous fellow standing over us, a strong inclination to go off into
a cold sweat seized us! Lo! it was after sunset! Almost dark in the
store, the stars had already began to twinkle in the sky.
Captain Vdid a considerable trade at his store, and at times had
considerable sums of money laying around. Upon leaving in the morning,
he notified us, in case we should require change, to look into
the desk, where he kept a shot bag of silver coin, andhis pistols.
How are you? the words and manner and looks of the man gave us a
How do you do? we managed to respond, at the same time sliding
down behind the counter. The stranger had a heavy walking stick in his
hand, and a knapsack looking bundle swung to his shoulder. He looked
like the rough remnants of an ill-spent life; had evidently travelled
somewhere where barbers, washer-women and such like civilian
delicacies, were more matters of tradition than fact.
Been asleep, eh? he carelessly continued.
It appears so, said we, feeling no better or more satisfactory in
our mind, and no reason to, for night was now closing in, and we were
going through our performances by the slight illumination of the stars,
without any positive certainty as to where the Captain kept his tinder
box and candle, that we might furnish some sort of light upon the
lugubrious state of affairs.
Do you keep this store?
No, we do not, we answered, watching the man as he put his bundle
down upon the counter.
Who does? was the next question.
The gentleman who keeps it, we replied, is away to-day.
Ah, gone to see a poor human being put out of the world, eh?
We said yes, or something of the kind, and thought to ourself, no
doubt you know all that's going on of that sort of business like a
book, and a host of other ideas flashed across our mind, while all the
evil deeds of note transacted in that region for the past ten years,
seemed awakened in our mind's eye, working up our nervous system, until
the coon skin cap upon our excited head stood upon about fifteen hairs,
with the strange and overwhelming impression that our time had come! We
would have given the State of Missouriif it were in our possession,
to have heard Captain V's voice, or even have had a fair chance to
dash out at the door, and give the fellow before us a specimen of tall
walkinglame as we were!
Ain't you got a light? I'd think you'd be a little timid (a
little timid!) about laying around here, alone, in the dark, too?
said the fellow, sticking one hand into his coat pocket, and gazing
sharply around the store. Mock heroically says we
Afraid? Afraid of what? our valor, like Bob Acres', oozing out at
These outlaws you've got around here, said he. They say the man
they hanged to-day was a decent fellow to what some are, who prowl
around in this country!
We very modestly said, that such fellows never bothered us.
Do you sleep in this storelive here?
No, sir, we don't, was our answer.
Where do you lodge and get your eating?
First house up the road.
How far is it? says he.
Half a mile or less.
Well, close up your shop, and come along with me! says the fellow.
Now we were coming to the tableaux! He wanted us to step
outside in order that the business could be done for us, with more
haste and certainty, and we really felt as good as assassinated and hid
in the bushes! It was quite astonishing how our visual organs
intensified! We could see every wrinkle and line in the fellow's face,
could almost count the stitches in his coat, and the more we looked,
and the keener and more searching became our observation, the more
atrocious and subtle became the fellow and his purpose. With a firmness
that astonished ourself, we said
No, Sir; if you have business there or elsewhere, you
had better go! and with this determined speech, we walked up to
the desk, and with the air of a man of business or the nonchalance of
a hero, says we
What are you afterhave you any business with us?
You're kind of crusty, Mister, says he. I'm canvassing this
State,wouldn't you like to subscribe for a first-rate map of
Missouri, OR A NEW EDITION OF JOSEPHUS?
We felt too mean all over to subscribe, but we found a light, and
soon found in the stranger one of the best sort of fellows, a man of
information and morality, and, though he had looked dangerous,
he turned out harmless as a lamb, and we got intimate as brothers
before Captain Vreturned that night.