First Dinner Speech – Dreams of S. America & Coca Riches – First Sweethearts
Keokuk, St. Louis and Snodgrass Letters – Cincinnati Typesetter – Macfarlane
[This first part written on May 21 is lost]
Sunday, May 25.
Well, Annie, I was not permitted to finish my letter Wednesday evening [May 21]. I believe Henry, who commenced his a day later, has beaten me. However, if my friends will let me alone I will go through today. Bugs! Yes, B-U-G-S! What of the bugs? Why, perdition take the bugs! That is all. Night before last I stood at the little press until nearly 2 o’clock, and the flaring gas light over my head attracted all the varieties of bugs which are to be found in natural history, and they all had the same praiseworthy recklessness about flying into the fire. They at first came in little social crowds of a dozen or so, but soon increased in numbers, until a religious mass meeting of several millions was assembled on the board before me, presided over by a venerable beetle, who occupied the most prominent lock of my hair as his chair of state, while innumerable lesser dignitaries of the same tribe were clustered around him, keeping order, and at the same time endeavoring to attract the attention of the vast assemblage to their own importance by industriously grating their teeth. It must have been an interesting occasion—perhaps a great bug jubilee commemorating the triumph of the locusts over Pharaoh’s crops in Egypt many centuries ago. At least, good seats, commanding an unobstructed view of the scene, were in great demand; and I have no doubt small fortunes were made by certain delegates from Yankee land by disposing of comfortable places on my shoulders at round premiums. In fact, the advantages which my altitude afforded were so well appreciated that I soon began to look like one of those big cards in the museum covered with insects impaled on pins.
The big “president” beetle (who, when he frowned, closely resembled Isbell when the pupils are out of time) rose and ducked his head and, crossing his arms over his shoulders, stroked them down to the tip of his nose several times, and after thus disposing of the perspiration, stuck his hands under his wings, propped his back against a lock of hair, and then, bobbing his head at the congregation, remarked, “B-u-z-z!” To which the congregation devoutly responded, “B-u-z-z!” Satisfied with this promptness on the part of his flock, he took a more imposing perpendicular against another lock of hair and, lifting his hands to command silence, gave another melodious “b-u-z-z!” on a louder key (which I suppose to have been the key-note) and after a moment’s silence the whole congregation burst into a grand anthem, three dignified daddy longlegs, perched near the gas burner, beating quadruple time during the performance. Soon two of the parts in the great chorus maintained silence, while a treble and alto duet, sung by forty-seven thousand mosquitoes and twenty-three thousand house flies, came in, and then, after another chorus, a tenor and bass duet by thirty-two thousand locusts and ninety-seven thousand pinch bugs was sung—then another grand chorus, “Let Every Bug Rejoice and Sing” (we used to sing “heart” instead of “bug”), terminated the performance, during which eleven treble singers split their throats from head to heels, and the patriotic “daddies” who beat time hadn’t a stump of a leg left.
It would take a ream of paper to give all the ceremonies of this great mass meeting. Suffice it to say that the little press “chawed up” half a bushel of the devotees, and I combed 976 beetles out of my hair the next morning, every one of whose throats was stretched wide open, for their gentle spirits had passed away while yet they sung—and who shall say they will not receive their reward? I buried their motionless forms with musical honors in John’s hat.
Now, Annie, don’t say anything about how long my letter was in going, for I didn’t receive yours until Wednesday—and don’t forget that I tried to answer it the same day, though I was doomed to fail. I wonder if you will do as much?
Yes, the loss of that bridge almost finished my earthly career. There is still a slight nausea about my stomach (for certain malicious persons say that my heart lies in that vicinity) whenever I think of it, and I believe I should have evaporated and vanished away like a blue cloud if John—indefatigable, unconquerable John—had not recovered from his illness to relieve me of a portion of my troubles. I think I can survive it now. John says “der chills kill a white boy, but sie (pronounced see) can’t kill a Detch-man.”
I have not now the slightest doubt, Annie, that your beautiful sketch is perfect. It looks more and more like what I suppose “Mt. Unpleasant” to be every time I look at it. It is really a pity that you could not get the shrubbery in, for your dog fennel is such a tasteful ornament to any yard. Still, I am entirely satisfied to get the principal beauties of the place, and will not grieve over the loss. I have delighted Henry’s little heart by delivering your message. Give the respected councilman the Latin letter by all means. If I understood the lingo well enough I would write you a Dutch one for him. Tell Mane I don’t know what Henry thinks of the verb “amo,” but for some time past I have discovered various fragments of paper scattered about bearing the single word “amite,” and since the receipt of her letter the fragments have greatly multiplied and the word has suddenly warmed into “amour” —all written in the same hand, and that, if I mistake not, Henry’s, for the latter is the only French word he has any particular affection for. Ah, Annie, I have a slight horror of writing essays myself; and if I were inclined to write one I should be afraid to do it, knowing you could do it so much better if you would only get industrious once and try. Don’t you be frightened—I guess Mane is afraid to write anything bad about you, or else her heart softens before she succeeds in doing it. Don’t fail to remember me to her—for I perceive she is aware that my funeral has not yet been preached. Ete paid us a visit yesterday, and we are going to return the kindness this afternoon. Good-by.
My Dear Mother & Sister:
I have nothing to write. Everything is going on well. The Directory is coming on finely. I have to work on it occasionally, which I don’t like a particle. I don’t like to work at too many things at once. They take Henry and Dick away from me too. Before we commenced the Directory, I could tell before breakfast just how much work could be done during the day, and manage accordingly—but now, they throw all my plans into disorder by taking my hands away from their work. I have nothing to do with the book—if I did I would the two book hands do more work than they do, or else I would drop. It is not a mere supposition that they do not work fast enough—I know it; for yesterday the two book hands were at work all day, Henry and Dick all the afternoon, on the advertisements, and they set up five pages and a half—and I set up two pages and a quarter of the same matter after supper night before last, and I don’t work fast on such things. They are either excessively slow motioned or very lazy. I am not getting along well with the job work. I can’t work blindly—without system. I gave Dick a job yesterday, which I calculated he could set in two hours and I could work off in three, and therefore just finish it by supper time, but he was transferred to the Directory, and the job, promised this morning, remains untouched. Through all the great pressure of job work lately, I never before failed in a promise of the kind.
John is gone—disappeared. I think he has ran away to get away from his brutal old father.
Excuse brevity—this is my 3d letter to-night.
My Dear Brother:
Annie is well. Got your letter, postmarked 5th about two hours ago—come d—d quick, (to be a little profane.) Ward and I held a long consultation, Sunday morning, and the result was that us two have determined to start to Brazil, if possible, in six weeks from now, in order to look carefully into matters there (by the way, I forgot to mention that Annie is well,) and report to Dr. Martin in time for him to follow on the first of March. We propose going via. New York. Now, between you and I and the fence you must say nothing about this to Orion, for he thinks that Ward is to go clear through alone, and that I am to stop at New York or New Orleans until he reports. But that don’t suit me. My confidence in human nature does not extend quite that far. I won’t depend upon Ward’s judgment, or anybody’s else—I want to see with my own eyes, and form my own opinion. But you know what Orion is. When he gets a notion into his head, and more especially if it is an erroneous one, the Devil can’t get it out again. So I knew better than to combat his arguments long, but apparently yielded, inwardly determined to go clear through. Ma knows my determination, but even she counsels me to keep it from Orion. She says I can treat him as I did her when I started to St. Louis and went to New York—I can start to New York and go to South America.! (This reminds me that—Annie is well.) Although Orion talks grandly about furnishing me with fifty or a hundred dollars in six weeks, I am not such an ass as to think he will retain the same opinion such an eternity of time—in all probability he will be entirely out of the notion by that time. Though I don’t like to attribute selfish motives to him, you could see yourself that his object in favoring my wishes was that I might take all the hell of pioneering in a foreign land, and then when everything was placed on a firm basis, and beyond all risk, he could follow himself. But you would soon discover, when the time arrived, that he couldn’t leave Mollie and that “love of a baby.” With these facts before my eyes, (I must not forget to say that Annie is well,) I could not depend upon Orion for ten dollars, so I have “feelers” out in several directions, and have already asked for a hundred dollars from one source (keep it to yourself.) I will lay on my oars for a while, and see how the wind sets, when I may probably try to get more. Mrs. Creel is a great friend of mine, and has some influence with Ma and Orion, though I reckon they would not acknowledge it. I am going up there to-morrow, to press her into my service. I shall take care that Ma and Orion are plentifully supplied with South American books. They have Herndon’s Report now. Ward and the Dr. and myself will hold a grand consultation to-night at the office. We have agreed that no more shall be admitted into our company.
Emma Graham has got home, and Bettie Barrett has gone up the country. I may as well remark that Annie is well. I spent Sunday afternoon up there, and brought away a big bouquet of Ete’s d—d stinking flowers, (I mean no disrespect to her, or her taste,)[.] Any single one of the lot smells worse than a Sebastopol “stink-pot.” Between you and I, I believe that the secret of Ma’s willingness to allow me to go to South America lies in the fact that she is afraid I am going to get married! Success to the hallucination. Annie has not heard from the girls yet. I believe the Guards went down to Quincy to-day to escort our first locomotive home.
The report that Belle and Isbell are about to be married, is still going. Dick was engaged in sticking up Whig office hand bills at last accounts.
P. S. I will just add that Annie is WELL [MTPO; MTL 1: 65-7]. The former source notes: Mary Ann Creel (b. 1822 or 1823), Mollie Clemens’s cousin, was the eldest daughter of Colonel William S. Patterson (1802–89), Iowa pioneer and legislator and Keokuk pork packer, postmaster, and later three-time mayor. She was married to Jane Clemens’s cousin Robert P. Creel (b. 1815), a brickmason who owned a successful construction business. In 1856 he was a member of the Iowa legislature, and in 1862 became mayor of Keokuk
Gee Whillikens! Mister Editors, if you could a been there jest then, you’d a thought that either old Gabriel had blowed his horn, or else there was houses to rent in that locality. I reckon there was nigh onto forty thousand people setting in that theatre—and sich an other fannin, and blowin, and scrapon, and gigglin, I hain’t seen since I arrived in the United States. Gals! Bless your soul, there was gals there of every age and sex, from three months up to a hundred years, and every cherubim of ‘em had a fan and an opery glass and a-tongue—probably two or three of the latter weepon, from the racket they made. No use to try to estimate the oceans of men and mustaches—the place looked like a shoe brush shop [MT Encyclopedia, Abshire 694; Camfield, bibliog.].