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No Danbury for Me by Sarsfield Young

Not in Danbury. No: life has too many vicissitudes in that Connecticut borough. It presents too kaleidoscopic an appearance to suit my style. Family catastrophes succeed each other at a brisker rate than I am used to. I shouldn't relish being a Danbury man on North street or South street: indeed, if you urge the thing, not even on East, West or any other street. I could by no manner of means hope to get reconciled to the accidents, you know. It is climatic, I suppose—an exhilarating air. I should be attempting all sorts of impossible feats, my sickly failures would of course get into the papers, and chagrin, dismay and general discomfort would be my earthly lot. I am not ambitious to undertake teaching the family to rock the cradle, fry doughnuts, do the family ironing and coax our stray hens into the coop, all in one motion. Nor am I impatient to get up in the moonlight with the idea buzzing in my brain that burglars have arrived, and after putting two or three pounds of lead into our best cow, to creep back to bed feeling badly, like a second Alexander, that there's no more glory. Really, I haven't enterprise enough for Danbury.

Now, there are men who ought to start off at once and move into that town. A wide-awake, bustling fellow, who craves excitement, who is never happy unless whirling around like a bobbin with a ten-per-cent. semi-annual dividend to earn, who is on hand at all the dog-fights, Irish funerals, runaway teams, tenement fires, razor-strop matinĂ©es, and public convulsions generally,—such a man, if he went well recommended, would be likely to find, I imagine, constant employment in the town of Danbury. He might make arrangements to take his meals on the jump, and would sleep of course with his hat and boots on. Browne is mercurial. Browne would be happy in Danbury. Till he died. For a fortnight, say—one brief, glowing, ecstatic fortnight. Fourteen giddy days would surely finish him. Imagine Browne (him of the eagle eye) up in the morning, his face washed, hair combed, breakfast taken aboard, and everything trim and tight for sailing out into the surging whirlpool of Danbury locals. We see him fold the substantial Mrs. B. to his manly bosom and discharge a parent's duty toward the little Brownes. We see him tear himself from the bosom of his family. It is affecting, as those things usually are.

Browne gains the street, backing out of his gate as he blows a superfluous kiss to Miss Tilly Browne, his youngest. He lurches, just as you may expect, into a stout market-woman laden with eggs and garden vegetables. She careens wildly, and plunges into a baby-cart that is pushing by. The darling occupant of fourteen months is smothered in a raw omelet and frescoed over the eye by bunches of asparagus. The cries of the sweet little cherub would melt the stoutest heart. The market-lady caracoles around, and leads Browne to infer that his conduct is not approved, from her festooning that gentleman's eyes with heavy lines of crape. Mrs. Browne arrives on the scene. The baby goes into fits. The fast-assembling crowd cry "Shame!" and Browne, after trying in vain to apologize, seeks the shelter of a hack and makes good his escape.

He descends at Main street, just in time to observe the man with the ladder and paint-pot working his way up along. That genius is smashing in store fronts and dropping paint liberally on the population. However, as he does this twice a day regularly through the week, it does not appear to attract much attention, except from strangers.

The fat gentleman who is in training to remove pieces of orange-peel from the sidewalk has already begun his labor of love for the day. He is just getting up and dusting himself as Browne goes by. There is nothing fresh in this either, so Browne does not stop. He merely nods and hurries on.

That Danbury youth who gets snarled up so badly when he is sent to do anything, and who has lived through no end of mustard plaster and other soothing applications, is standing in a doorway whistling. Browne conceives it to be a capital idea to waylay this boy and interview him. But, as if divining Browne's purpose, the young hero gives a war-whoop and dives down a side alley. Browne will write up the interview just the same, though.

Browne sees something lively now, something Danburian. A fire company in lobster-colored shirts turn into Main street, aided and abetted by a brass band hired by the job to play furiously. Browne admires the gallant firemen as they step along bravely, winking at the pretty girls on either side—at the machine which glistens in the sun, and maintains a lively jingling of bells and brass-work as it joggles over the pavement. "Ah," thinks Browne, "this is gorgeous!" It is. Browne's instincts are generally correct.

The man who assists in carrying the bass drum has a sore thumb, a sensitively sore thumb. Nothing more natural, when Sherman goes "marching through Georgia," than that this thumb should come in for a share of attention. The bang it gets sends the acutest pain running up and down its owner's spine. In a frenzy (in a moment, we may say, of emotional insanity) he draws a tomahawk and buries it in the head of the captain of that bass drum. The infuriated musician, supposing it to be the cornet who has mutinied, at once gets his Smith & Wesson in range. When the smoke has cleared away three shots are found to have taken effect—two of them in a span of high-stepping horses attached to the elegant turnout of old Mrs. P——. That estimable lady is spilled into the third-story window of an establishment where sits our old friend Hannah binding shoes. The shock so far upsets poor Hannah's reason that she turns a blood-curdling somersault out upon an awning, bounces back, and on her return trip carries away a swinging sign and a barber's pole. These heavy articles strike on a copper soda-fountain, which explodes with a fearful noise, and mortally wounds a colored man uninsured against accident. (Full particulars for the next twelve months in the insurance journals.) The gallant boys in red flannel, assuming from the commotion that a fire must be under way in the neighborhood, set the machine to work in a twinkling. The leading hoseman in his hurry rams his bouquet into the fire-box, tries to screw his silver trumpet on the end of the hose, and stands on his stiff glazed hat to find out what kind of strategy is needed. Then they proceed to drown out an ice-cream saloon on the wrong side of the street.

Browne is happy. He climbs a lamppost, and sets to work taking notes as fast as his pencil can fly. Somebody, mistaking his coat-tail pockets for the post-office, drops in a set of public documents (it is the last day of franking), which so interferes with Browne's equilibrium that he falls over backward into an ash-barrel, after getting out of which he finds it rests him to write with his pencil in his teeth. At last order is restored, the thumb is repaired, and the procession, getting untangled, moves off to the inspiriting strains of "Ain't you glad," etc.

Browne mixes in two more scenes before lunch. In the afternoon there's a balloon ascension, where everything goes up but the balloon; and a croquet-party brim full of eccentricities. Browne picks up half a dozen juvenile and domestic incidents, hardly worth alluding to, and goes home, through a series of adventures, to find a tall, raw-boned horse, a total stranger, walking over his flower-beds and occasionally looking in at the windows. Browne's skirmishes around the animal (the whole campaign together) cost him about thirty dollars.

I resign Danbury to Browne. Though there's a capital fellow there whom I should like to see, I'd rather not go down there and pay taxes.