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Passing Around the Fodder! by Jonathan F. Kelley


A few weeks ago, during a passage from Gotham to Boston, on the “ Empire State,” one of the most elegant and swift steamers that ever man's ingenuity put upon the waters, I met a well-known joker from the Quaker city, on his first trip “down East.” After mutually examining and eulogising the external appearance and internal arrangements of the “Empire,” winding up our investigation, of course, with a look into a small corner cupboard in the barber's office, where a superb smile—as is a smile—can be usually enjoyed by the nobbish investment of a York shilling; soon after passing through “Hell Gate”—gliding by the beautiful villas, chateaux, and almost princely palaces of the business men of the great city of New York, we were soon out upon the broad, deep Sound, a glorious place for steam-boating. Soon after, the bells announced “supper ready”—a general stampede into the spacious cabin took place, and though the tables strung along forty rods on each side of the great cabin, not over half the crowd got seats upon this interesting occasion. I was about with my friend—in time, stuck our legs under the mahogany, and gazed upon the open prospect for a supper superb enough in all its details to tempt a jolly old friar from his devotions. We got along very nicely. An old chap who sat above us some seats, and whose rotund developments gave any ordinary observer reason to suppose his appetite as unquenchable as the Maelstrom, kept reaching about, and when tempting vessels were too remote, he'd bawl “right eout” for them.

“Halloo! I say you, Mister there, just hand along that saas; give us a chance, will ye, at that; notion on't, what d'ye call that stuff?”

“This?” says one, passing along a dish.

“Pshaw, no, t'other there.”

“Oh! ah! yes, this,” says my facetious friend.

“Well, that ain't it, but no odds; fetch it along!” and down we sent the biggest dish of meat in our neighborhood.

“Now,” says I, “my boy, I'll show you a 'dodge.' We'll see how it works.”

Filling a plate full to the brim, with all and each of the various heavy courses in our vicinity, I very politely passed it over to my next neighbor with—

“Please to pass that up, sir?”

“Umph, eh?” says the gentleman, taking hold of the plate very gingerly; “pass it up?”

“Aye, yes, if you please,” says I.

By this time he had fairly got the loaded plate in his fists, and began to look about him where to pass the plate to. Nobody in particular seemed on the watch for a spare plate. The gent looked back at me, but I was “cutting away” and watching from the extreme corner of my left eye the victim and his charge, while I pressed hard upon the corn pile of my friend's foot under the table.

At length, the victim thought he saw some one up the table waiting for the plate, and quickly he whispered to his next neighbor—

“Please, sir, to-to-a, just pass this plate up!

The man took the plate, and being more of a practical operator than his neighbor, gave the plate over to his next neighbor, with—

“Pass this plate up to that gentleman, if you please,” dodging his head towards an old gent in specs, who sat near the head of the table, grinning a ghastly smile over the field of good things.

“It's going!

What?” says my friend.

“The plate; it's going the rounds; just you keep quiet, you'll see a good thing.”

The plate, at length, got to the head of the table. It was given to the old gentleman in specs; he looked over the top of his specs very deliberately at the “fodder,” then back at the thin, pale, student-looking youth who handed it to him, then up and down the table. A raw-boned, gaunt and hollow-looking disciple caught the eye of the old gent; he must be the man who wanted the “load.” His lips quacked as if in the act of—“pass this plate, sir,”—to his next neighbor; he was too far off for us to hear his discourse. Well, the plate came booming along down the opposite side; the tall man declined it and gave it over to his next neighbor, who seemed a little tempted to take hold of the invoice, but just then it occurred to him, probably, that he was keeping somebody (!) out of his grub, so he quickly turned to his neighbor and passed the plate. One or two more moves brought the plate within our range, and there it liked to have stuck, for a fussy old Englishman, in whom politeness did not stick out very prominently, grunted—

“I don't want it, sir.”

“Well, but, sir, please pass it,” says the last victim, beseechingly holding out the plate.

“Pass it? Here, mister, 's your plate,” says Bull, at length reluctantly seizing on the plate, and rushing it on to his next neighbor, who started—

“Not mine, sir.”

“Not yours! Who does it belong to? Pass it down to somebody.”

Off went the plate again. Several ladies turned up their pretty eyes and noses while the gents passed it by them.

“Why, if there ain't that plate a going the rounds, that you gave me!” says my next neighbor, to whom I had first given the “currency.”

“That plate? Oh, yes, so it is; well,” says I, with feigned astonishment, “this is the first time I ever saw a good supper so universally discarded!”

The plate was off again. It reached the foot of the table. An elderly lady looked up, looked around, removed a large sweet potato from the pile—then passed it along. An old salty-looking captain, just then took a vacant seat, and the plate reached him just in the nick of time. He looked voracious—

“Ah,” said he, with a savage growl, “that's your sort; thunder and oakum, I'm as peckish as a shark, and here's the duff for me!

That ended the peregrinations of the plate, and I and my friend— yelled right out!


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