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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe End Of The World: A Love Story - Chapter 46. The Shiveree
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The End Of The World: A Love Story - Chapter 46. The Shiveree Post by :WhoDoesItReach Category :Long Stories Author :Edward Eggleston Date :May 2012 Read :2904

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The End Of The World: A Love Story - Chapter 46. The Shiveree

CHAPTER XLVI. THE SHIVEREE

If Webster's "American Dictionary of the English Language" had not been made wholly in New England, it would not have lacked so many words that do duty as native-born or naturalized citizens in large sections of the United States, and among these words is the one that stands at the head of the present chapter. I know that some disdainful prig will assure me that it is but a corruption of the French "_charivari," and so it is; but then "_charivari_" is a corruption of the low Latin "_charivarium_" and that is a corruption of something else, and, indeed, almost every word is a corruption of some other word. So that there is no good reason why "shiveree," which lives in entire unconsciousness of its French parentage and its Latin grand-parentage, should not find its place in an "American Dictionary."

But while I am writing a disquisition on the etymology of the word, the "shiveree" is mustering at Mandluff's store. Bill Day has concluded that he is in no immediate danger of perdition, and that a man is a "blamed fool to git skeered about his soul." Bob Short is sure the Almighty will not be too hard on a feller, and so thinks he will go on having "a little fun" now and then. And among the manly recreations which they have proposed to themselves is that of shivereeing "that Dutchman, Gus Wehle." It is the solemn opinion of the whole crowd that "no Dutchman hadn't orter be so lucky as to git sech a beauty of a gal and a hundred acres of bottom lands to boot."

The members of the party were all disguised, some in one way and some in another, though most of them had their coats inside out. They thought it necessary to be disguised, "bekase, you know," as Bill Day expressed it, "ole Grizzly is apt to prosecute ef he gits evidence agin you." And many were the conjectures as to whether he would shoot or not.

The instruments provided by this orchestra were as various as their musical tastes. It is likely that even Mr. Jubilee Gilmore never saw such an outfit. Bob Short had a dumb-bull, a keg with a strip of raw-hide stretched across one end like a drum-head, while the other remained open. A waxed cord inserted in the middle of the drum-head, and reaching down through the keg, completed the instrument. The pulling of the hand over this cord made a hideous bellowing, hence its name. Bill Day had a gigantic watchman's rattle, a hickory spring on a cog-wheel. It is called in the West, a horse-fiddle, because it is so unlike either a horse or a fiddle. Then there were melodious tin pans and conch-shells and tin horns. But the most deadly noise was made by Jim West, who had two iron skillet-lids ("leds" he called them) which, when placed face to face, and rubbed, as you have seen children rub tumblers, made a sound discordant and deafening enough to have suggested Milton's expression about the hinges which "grated harsh thunder."

One of this party was a tallish man, so dressed as to look like a hunchback, and a hunchback so tall was a most singular figure. He had joined them in the dark, and the rest were unable to guess who it could be, and he, for his part, would not tell. They thumped him and pushed him, but at each attack he only leaped from the ground like a circus clown, and made his tin horn utter so doleful a complaint as set the party in an uproar of laughter. They could not be sure who he was, but he was a funny fellow to have along with them at any rate.

He was not only funny, but he was evidently fearless. For when they came to the castle it was all dark and still. Bill Day said that it looked "powerful juberous to him. Ole Andy meant to use shootin'-ir'ns, and didn't want to be pestered with no lights blazin' in his eyes." But the tall hunchback cleared the fence at a bound, and told them to come on "ef they had the sperrit of a two-weeks-old goslin into 'em." So the bottle was passed round, and for very shame they followed their ungainly leader.

"Looky here, boys," said the hunchback, "they's one way that we can fix it so's ole Grizzly can't shoot. They's a little shop-place, a sort of a shed, agin the house, on the side next to the branch. Let's git in thar afore we begin, and he can't shoot."

The orchestra were a little stupefied with drink, and they took the idea quickly, never stopping to ask how they could retreat if Andrew chose to shoot. Jim West thought things looked scaly, but he warn't agoin' to backslide arter he'd got so fur.

When they got into Andrew's shop, where he had a new and beautiful skiff in building, the tall hunchback shut the door, and the rest did not notice that he put the key in his pocket.

That serenade! Such a medley of discordant sounds, such a clatter and clangor, such a rattle of horse-fiddle, such a bellowing of dumb-bull, such a snorting of tin horns, such a ringing of tin pans, such a grinding of skillet-lids! But the house remained quiet. Once Bill Day thought that he heard a laugh within. Julia may have lost her self-control. She was so happy, and a little unrestrained fun was so strange a luxury!

At last the door between the house and shop was suddenly opened, and Julia, radiant as she could be, stood on the threshold with a candle in her hand.

"Come in, gentlemen."

But the gentlemen essayed to go out.

"Locked in, by thunder!" said Jim West, trying the outside door of the shop.

"We heard you were coming, gentlemen, and provided a little entertainment. Come in!"

"Come in, boys," said the hunchback, "don't be afeard of nobody."

Mechanically they followed the hunchback into the room, for there was nothing else to be done. A smell of hot coffee and the sight of a well-spread table greeted their senses.

"Welcome, my friends, thrice welcome!" said Andrew. "Put down your instruments and have some supper."

"Let me relieve you," said Julia, and she took the dumb-bull from Bob Short and the "horse-fiddle" from Day, the tin horns and tin pans from others, and the two skillet-lids from Jim West, who looked as sheepish as possible. August escorted each of them to the table, though his face did not look altogether cordial. Some old resentment for the treatment of his father interfered with the heartiness of his hospitality. The hunchback in this light proved to be Jonas, of course; and Bill Day whispered to the one next to him that they had been "tuck in and done fer that time."

"Gentlemen," said Andrew, "we are much obliged for your music." And Cynthy would certainly have laughed out if she had not been so perplexed in her mind to know whether Andrew was speaking the truth.

Such a motley set of wedding guests as they were, with their coats inside out and their other disguises! Such a race of pied pipers! And looking at their hangdog faces you would have said, "Such a lot of sheep-thieves!" Though why a sheep-thief is considered to be a more guilty-looking man than any other criminal, I do not know. Jonas looked bright enough and ridiculous enough with his hunch. They all ate rather heartily, for how could they resist the attentions of Cynthy Ann and the persuasions of Julia, who poured them coffee and handed them biscuit, and waited upon them as though they were royal guests! And, moreover, the act of eating served to cover their confusion.

As the meal drew to a close, Bill Day felt that he, being in some sense the leader of the party, ought to speak. He was not quite sober, though he could stand without much staggering. He had been trying for some time to frame a little speech, but his faculties did not work smoothly.

"Mr. President--I mean Mr. Anderson--permit me to offer you our pardon. I mean to beg your apologies--to--ahem--hope that our--that your--our--thousand--thanks--your--you know what I mean." And he sat down in foolish confusion.

"Oh! yes. All right; much obliged, my friend," said the Philosopher, who had not felt so much boyish animal life in twenty-five years.

And Jim West whispered to Bill: "You expressed my sentiments exactly."

"Mr. Anderson," said Jonas, rising, and thus lifting up his hunched shoulders and looking the picture of a long-legged heron standing in the water, "Mr. Anderson, you and our young and happy friend, Mr. Wehle, will accept our thanks. We thought that music was all you wanted to gin a delightful--kinder--sorter--well, top-dressin', to this interestin' occasion. Now they's nothin' sweeter'n a tin horn, 'thout 'tis a melodious conch-shell utterin' its voice like a turkle-dove. Then we've got the paytent double whirlymagig hoss-violeen, and the tin pannyforte, and, better nor all, the grindin' skelletled cymbals. We've laid ourselves out and done our purtiest--hain't we, feller-musicians?--to prove that we was the best band on the Ohio River. An' all out of affection and respect for this ere happy pair. And we're all happy to be here. Hain't we?" (Here they all nodded assent, though they looked as though they wished themselves far enough.) "Our enstruments is a leetle out of toon, owin' to the dampness of the night air, and so I trust you'll excuse us playin' a farewell piece."

Jim West was so anxious to get away that he took advantage of this turn to say good-evening, and though the mischievous Julia insisted that he should select his instrument, he had not the face to confess to the skillet-lids, and got out of it by assuring her that he hadn't brought nothing, "only come along to see the fun." And each member of the party repeated the transparent lie, so that Julia found herself supplied with more musical instruments than any young housekeeper need want, and Andrew hung them, horns, pans, conch-shell, dumb-bull, horse-fiddle, skillet-lids, and all, in his library, as trophies captured from the enemy.

Much as I should like to tell you of the later events of the Philosopher's life, and about Julia and August, and their oldest son, whose name is Andrew, and all that, I do not know that I can do better than to bow myself out with the abashed serenaders, letting this musical epilogue harmoniously close the book; writing just here.


(THE END)
Edward Eggleston's Novel: End Of The World: A Love Story

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