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Proving beyond dispute, the timid swarms
They pant, they groan, each death-like warrior reels,
Three times our heroine raised her voice aloud,
'Tis still disputed how that sound got birth,
Or truant school-boy gave it to the skies;
Some think 't was Brownie,' and in Houlton, now,
OR THE ROW AT TINNE CUM: A SKETCH OF LONG ISLAND.
BY THE AUTHOR OF THE KUSHOW PROPERTY!
THE village of Tinnecum, situated on Swan-Creek, Long-Island, has hitherto escaped the observation of travellers; happy, however, in this respect, if she has likewise escaped their ill-natured remarks and maledictions. There is, it is true, little here to attract the eye. A church, a school-house, a shop, a tavern, and a blacksmith's forge, supply the spiritual and temporal wants of those who make up the small society. By some extraordinary oversight, the Post-Master General has neglected to establish a post-office in this place, so that the inhabitants, who are wonderfully fond of news, can get little except what they manufacture on the spot. Nevertheless I must not forget to mention that a newspaper has just been established, which manages to get wind of the great revolutions which take place in the world, long after they have ceased to be matters of surprise or wonder. It is a pity that Tinnecum lies off the mail routes. It makes it a very dull place. The rumbling of coach-wheels, and the clear bugle of the post-man, as he brings up gallantly after creeping for miles at a snail's pace, is never heard. There is no gathering together in groups at the post-office, to catch the rumors of the day, but all things exhibit a stagnation and repose, imaged forth by the languid waters of Swan Creek, which rest upon the profound mud. When the November elections come round, there is indeed more excitement; and recently, when the political party who have always had the upper hand in this neighborhood, gained a renowned victory, and succeeded in sending
the blacksmith to the legislature, in opposition to the store-keeper, who was 'too much of a gentleman,' they thought that this was rather too large an exploit to rest in silence; and in order that no one might be ignorant of what they had done, from the north to the south, and from the sea-coast to the Rocky Mountains, they got an immense showbill struck off, and liberally dispensed, which was headed in flaming capitals to this effect: TINNECUM ERECT!' But the waters of Swan Creek were to be agitated yet more violently than they had ever been 'within the memory of the oldest inhabitant.' There was to be, it seems, a puddle in a storm. To speak more plainly, the event which had lately taken place in Tinnecum was of that exciting character, and is the subject of such vehement remark, that it really seems worthy of being recorded in her annals; and the attention of the reader is requested for a few moments to the narrative of one who would not willingly extenuate, or set down aught in malice.'
One evening in the middle of November, Mr. Jonas Weatherby, school-master, who taught all the arts and sciences which it was necessary for the inhabitants of Tinnecum to know, came home very much wearied after the labors of the day, and sat himself down before a good fire to read the Tinnecum Gazette.' He had been for some time so engaged, and was beginning to doze comfortably over the learned disquisitions of the editor, when he was observed suddenly to wake up and look bright; his eye-balls expanded, and became large; he held the paper first near, and then afar off, as if he had got the wrong focus, and did not read aright; then shaking himself in his chair, he began to sniffle in a way indicative of contempt and indignation. The cause of all this feeling was a simple announcement in the Gazette, in the following terms:
INSTRUCTION IN THE ART OF SINGING.
'MR. PETER CRAM, of the State of New-Hampshire, respectfully informs the inhabitants of Tinnecum, that he intends to open a singing-school in this village, provided sufficient encouragement is given. The course of instruction will be twenty-four lessons, in RHYTHM, MELODY, and DYNAMICS. He proposes to meet those who are desirous of instruction in music, at the Big-room of the Tavern, on Tuesday evening, when the first lecture will be delivered GRATIS, at which the public generally are invited to attend.'
Here is a pretty illustration of bringing coals to Newcastle!' thought Mr. Weatherby, as he reflected on this impudent invasion of his musical province. Here comes a New-Hampshire Yankee, green from the mountains, who cannot pronounce three words according to Walker, I warrant it, and wants to set up a singin'-school in Tinnecum, where I have been chorister for these ten years past, and regularly instructed the folks in psalmody! Like enough he will come here with his hallelujah choruses, and powerful anthems, and new-fangled notions, and almost craze some foolish heads. But he sha' n't snatch my laurels, nor shall I be trifled with. It shall be Peter Cram, or Jonas Weatherby, one or the other. If this stranger is to receive countenance, then I pull up stakes, and depart from Tinnecum forever.' This solemn resolve was promptly suggested to the mind of the school-master, who manifested not a little contempt and anger; for the more he read the advertisement, the more he was astonished at the rashest act of temerity he had ever witnessed in his born days. If it were not for the evidence of his eyes, he would not have believed that any one would
have venture dalong the shores of Swan Creek on such an errand. ONLY TO THINK OF BRINGING MUSIC TO TINNECUM!
After fidgetting about for some time, Mr. Weatherby got his hat and cloak, and crumpling up the obnoxious paper, went out. The cold air of the night did not allay his excitement. He directed his steps to a small apartment situated over the horse-shed of the inn, where a huge board projected in the air, on which was inscribed in large characters, 'OFFICE OF THE TINNECUM GAZETTE. There was a flight of steps on the outside, which the school-master ascended, and opening a door at the landing, entered without ceremony. The room was dark, silent, and almost solitary. A single mould candle, having a thief in it, and stuck in a black bottle, which had become thoroughly encrusted with grease, shed an uncertain light over the forms, cases, and cabalistic instruments of art, scarcely revealing the huge iron outlines of the press,' which vaguely suggested to the mind the idea of that tremendous agent,' which it is described to be. It was the day after publication, when the noise, bustle, and clatter of the office had momentarily ceased, and the cry of 'copy' and continual demands upon the brain were stayed. The genius-loci sat at a table, snuffing the air of literary sanctity, but forgetting to snuff his candle withal. It is no wonder that he was absent-minded, for the departments of his labor were many. He made the news, printed it, pressed it, wrapped it, and despatched it; and he was at this moment engaged in the task of pasting wrappers on papers which were intended for the LongIsland subscribers at Bog Lots, Drowned Meadow, Patch-Hog, and Mount Misery. He was an inferior-looking man, of servile demeanor, with a low, concave brow, and whose other features seemed to retire unanimously to make room for a great beak of a nose, which Nature made on purpose to be twitched, and which cast the shadow of a flying bridge over a wide extent of wall. It was wonderful that so distinguished a member disappointed the end for which it appeared to have been formed; for although many persons felt an irrepressible inclination to give it a tweak, the owner was so meek and inoffensive that he never afforded any body a chance: for his editorial reflections could not in any case be construed into libel, unless they were severely wrested; on the contrary, they were so obvious in their character, that they could with difficulty be questioned at all. Nevertheless Mr. Weatherby presented himself before the editor, somewhat excited, and holding the crumpled paper in his right hand, which he clenched so tightly that the windows rattled in the room, Sir,' said he, I hold in my hand the Tinnecum Gazette, of yesterday's date.'
'An interesting number, wa'nt it?' replied the editor, who was far from suspecting any cause of displeasure in the person who addressed
'Yes, it was interesting-particularly so,' said Mr. Weatherby, with a sardonic smile, which the darkness of the room concealed. Then raising his voice, so that his feelings could not be mistaken, ‘I come here to inquire,' said he, 'whether you are privy to that article ;' and he thrust the newspaper in the light, and put his finger upon the name of PETER CRAM.
I printed it,' replied the editor, in a tone of perplexity and surprise.
'You printed it!' thundered the school-master; then let me tell you that you have done insult and injury to me, by alluding to this man in your editorial columns. He is an impostor and an ignorant ramus, and such he will turn out to be, and you had n't ought to have recommended him. By so doing, you bring contempt on the legitimate masters of the art. You see that, don't you?'
Jes' so!' conceded the obsequious editor; but he murmured something about the liberty of the press.'
'The 'liberty of the press!'' echoed Mr. Weatherby, in a loud and contemptuous tone, which would have required all the exclamation points in the office to express its emphasis; if the 'liberty of the press' consists in praising quacks and impostors, then I for one do not know what it means. I should rather call it a prostitution of the press. That's equally plain, is n't it?'
'Jes' so!' said the editor, cowering: 'I hope you will excuse me ; I did n't mean any harm.'
Notwithstanding the wrath of the school-master was thus deprecated, he continued to speak for a long time in the printing-office with caustic severity, and at last he took the paper in question, and wended his way homeward, stopping however first at the blacksmith's shop. Here he gained the attention of a little audience, and for several minutes the bellows ceased to heave, the iron cooled on the anvil, the sparks went up lazily out of the chimney, one after another, instead of ascending in blazing fire-works, and the interesting operation of making hob-nails was arrested. Mr. Weatherby then went into the 'store,' where half the town of Tinnecum were warming their fingers around the stove-pipe, and wound up his argument against itinerating school-masters, in these emphatic words, which will long be remembered by those who heard them : Gentlemen, it is rascally, it is contemptible!' The consequence of all this was, that quite a party was got up against Peter Cram, and a council convened to determine what it was proper to do to him. Some were in favor of keeping entirely aloof, and looking upon him with silent contempt; others wished to appoint a committee to wait on him and inform him that his services were not needed; while the younger part of the community would resort to the lawless alternative of plunging him head and ears into Swan Creek. Fortunately for Mr. Cram, a grand obstacle prevented them from executing any of these plans. They had an itching and craving desire of novelty, and secretly they had no intention of crushing this matter in the bud, just to gratify Mr. Weatherby. For since the departure of the Erudite Goat,' and the 'Albino Lady,' and the Prodigious Children,' there had been no exhibition of any kind at Tinnecum. Consequently they determined to wait the arrival of the stranger, and let him speak for himself.
Probably if no previous mention had been made of him, he would have attracted little attention, and would have quietly departed for the want of patronage; but now the whole village were on the qui vive, and when the appointed evening came, the place of meeting was crowded almost to suffocation. It was the Big-room of the tavern, where the town-meetings were usually held, and where there was a dance every winter after the first snow, provided the services of the blind fiddler could be secured. It was illuminated on the present occa
sion by five candles, four of which were placed in tin receptacles on the walls, and one stood on the table. An ominous silence reigned in the assembly, something like that which precedes a thunder-storm, when the air is pent and murky, and scarcely a leaf is seen to move. Mr. Cram had not yet arrived, but he was momentarily expected, and there was a stretching of necks at every motion in the direction of the door. At the last moment, when expectation was wrought to the highest pitch, he entered, and walking up to the table, laid down an oblong book, called 'Zion's Harp, or the Collections of the NewHampshire Academy.' His motions were watched with great greediness. He commeced operations by pulling off his great-coat and hanging it upon a peg, at the same time rubbing his hands, and adjusting his dress. This he did with a smart, sprightly air, for the number collected had flushed his cadaverous cheeks with the hope of unwonted success.
He was a tall, shambling man, and his body, if I may speak musically, was composed of flats and sharps. His feet were flat, his stomach, chest, back, all were as flat as grave-stones; but his chin was sharp, and his nose 'looked as if it had been cut out of a shingle,' and lay in the same plane or superfices with his cheeks, of which it was a continuation. His mental endowments, to speak the truth, were not any richer. He was utterly ignorant of the world, and simple and unsuspecting in his character. He looked for no guile in others, and for his own part, there is no doubt that he had at heart his individual emolument, and the improvement of the Tinnecum folks in psalmody. He had received his musical education at the base of the Green Mountains, and his dialect was rancorously tinctured with the peculiarities of that region. He began the lecture, by saying that there were more persons present than he calculated to have met on the first night, and that it was gratifying to see them so eager to embrace this privilege, for it was a great and creowning privilege,' to possess the means of instruction in this sublime art. He said that music was of divine origin; that it was coeval with the world, and that the morning stars sang together for joy; that it was common among the primitive Christians; and that it was said of the disciples in the Testament, that they 'sang a hymn, and went aëout!'
No sooner was this last word heard—which was uttered with a compound twang which it is impossible to describe, out of the mouth of Mr. Peter Cram-than the down-east pronunciation struck upon the Dorian ears of the Tinnecumites, and they burst into a fit of inextinguishable laughter. This first symptom of insubordination was however utterly unintelligible to the lecturer, and he went on. He remarked that music had been used in the army, at an early date, and that the children of Israel were commanded to try the musical properties of reams'-horns, when they besieged the town of Jericho, and by those means the walls fell down. After that, the use of 'reams'horns' was continued in the army for a long time, to allay excitement and to soothe the feelings. It had been fitly said, that
'Music was formed to tame the savage breast,
And lull the angry passions all to rest.''
After many more reflections of this nature, and some grotesque