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SHREDS AND PATCHES.
COURTEOUS and genıle reader, we throw ourselves upon your kindness at the outset. We should come before you with “ fear and trembling," were we not heartily convinced you have considerable of the aforementioned quality; and this consideration alone emboldens us. To make you wiser is no part of our intention, even were we able so to do ; and if we fail of giving you any thing amusing or agreeable, we shall be sorry for having wasted your time and our own. Trifles light as air are sometimes more acceptable than grave and learned speculations; and in some of our moods a little friendly chit-chat is worth all the adipose and weighty matter that ever oozed from thinking brains. Should we waken a single kindly feeling in your breast, or cause a single smile to play about the corners of your facial orifice, our aim and hope will be fully realized.
What a world of croakers there is now-a-days among all classes of men. Go where you will, you have their peevish and grating tones ringing eternally in your ears. They seem to think they were sent into the world for the express purpose of finding fault with every thing in it. Nothing goes right with them-things are not as they should be; if they could have had the management of creation, it would have been essentially different. There is a bad state of society-young men know too much, and old men are altogether too obstinate-one man is too rich, and another too poor. The world is growing worse and worse every year, and has been doing so from the day that Noah came out of the ark; and just at present it is going down hill with railroad velocity. Men are not half so large as they used to be-they don't live hals so long--they are a lean, sickly, cadaverous set of walking anatomies, the whole race of them. They are not like their fathers, stiil less like their grandfathers and great-grandfathers--men of brawn and muscle, of stalwart frame and daring soul, who did battle for freedom in its hour of need. But this is only a single topic under the head of croaking.
There is the clerical croaker, who deems it the chief object of his holy calling to rail and carp at every man who wears a coat of different hue from his own. Our rulers he tells you are all godless and unrighteous men; the nation will surely be visited by some dire calamity for having such in its high places. He will harrow up the souls of his hearers with frightful pictures of persecution, burnings at the stake, and all that, if they suffer a particular sect to gain the ascendency in the country—which is certainly going to happen in twenty or thirty years at farthest, unless just such men as himself do something extraordinary to prevent it. He will ever be devising some way in which the union is to be broken up, and the nation destroyed, for its crying sins. All this may be thought well enough by some; but it certainly
seems quite as befitting his station, and calculated to do quite as much good, for him to deal a little more with the spiritual and eternal interests of his immediate charge of those who are wont to "sit under the droppings of his altar.” The voice of earnest and affectionate warning, the direct appeal to their own hearts, and the accents of promised mercy to those who take heed in time, may be productive of quite as much good, if not quite as welcome to his hearers.
Then comes the political croaker, who tells you the country is ruined, and “ agriculture, commerce, and manufactures” all “going to smash,” because his party is not in power. Money is growing scarce-banks are breaking-merchants failing-men thrown out of employmentwomen and children starving-poverty and ruin staring all classes in the face. But we won't enlarge upon him. Next is the croaker in general—who croaks at any thing and every thing, and tells you there is no such thing as honor and friendship among men; that the world is all barren, and there is no joy in it. Away with the whole bevy of them! They deserve to be bound hand and foot, and cast into some foul and slimy pool, to croak with their brethren of the bullfrog species. They alone would make life joyless and void of charm. Yes, there is some good in the world. It is not all darkness and gloom. It buds and blossoms in beauty ; its deserts are but specks upon its broad and fruitful bosom. Life is like the world ; though at times it seems cheerless and waste, there are many, many pleasant hours for one of sadness and sorrow. Hope, that “ hovering angel, girt with golden wings,” and its twin sister, Faith, are ever cheering him who yields to their influence. Love too, the essential principle of God himself, sheds its mild and hallowing radiance over the earth. Friendship is not always an empty name ; its cords binding heart to heart, though fine as thread of gossamer and soft as silk, are strong as links of steel. The fountain of life does indeed send forth sweet waters as well as bitter. Envy may rankle in the heart, and its “ thousand snakes with black, envenomed mouths" may hiss and feed upon it. Suspicion may turn its squint and sinister eye upon every face, be it that of friend or foe. Selfishness may stint and wither every kindly feeling-may choke and stifle every generous impulse. But there are better and nobler principles ; and men there are who cherish them. The warm gush of kindness and sympathy is often felt; and the pure, fresh bubbling spring of good feeling and love in the heart often wells up to overflowing.
That word wells, by some odd freak of association, has called up rather an amusing anecdote lately told us, which was new to us at least. An eastern countryman, while making a tour through one of the western states, chanced to fall in with an old acquaintance who had married and “ gone west" a few years before. He had passed through the usual preliminaries of felling trees and rearing a log-cabin ; had grown thriving, and just got into a new framed house on the site of the original tenement. Every thing about it betokened a residence in a new country, however; and the lack of a fence to the front yard, and other like embellishments, contributed to this appearance. Observing something like half a dozen flaxen-headed urchins playing about an uncovered
well, the man from the east inquired if it was not rather dangerous to leave it in that condition. “Oh, no," responded his host. “ I have been living here nine years, and have had but four children drowned in it yet.” Our traveler looked at the surviving tokens of his friend's thristiness, and was silent—thinking such a contrivance might be rather convenient than otherwise.
Would that some one who understands the subject, might indite a chapter on whiskers. We acknowledge ourselves to be among the uninitiated, and are therefore unacquainted with the hidden virtue and mighty magic of the thing. Men are “marvelous hairy about the face," as Nick Bottom once said of himself; but he called himself a “tender ass” in the same breath, which is more than we will call any one who follows his example now-a-days. If they render a man brave and ralorous, as has been sometimes supposed, then are we fast getting to be the bravest people under heaven; and it wouldn't be for the health of any nation to meddle with us. The “ Old Continentals," of which our grandfathers tell, would have been most arrant cowards in comparison with a regiment of our modern heroes. The Indians have been proverbial for their fear of a man with whiskers ; and in the olden time of our history, when the war-whoop might burst at any hour from the forests that skirted every settlement, our soldiers when about to go on an expedition against their foes, were wont to glue strips of bear skin to the sides of their faces in order to strike terror. No need of any such contrivance now; a single squadron of our young braves, with their grim visages all bristling and “bearded like a pard," would be sufficient to drive the whole copper-colored into the waves of the Pacific. Perhaps there is an unseen efficacy in these hairy appendages—they are doubtless convenient for more purposes than one ; but we often feel tempted, when looking at them, to ask the possessor, as did the Yankee pedlar, if he wouldn't like to buy a pair of bang-up currycombs. But we don't know any thing about the matter; therefore, we'll stop where we are. Once more we say, may some one write a chapter on whiskers in general, and mustaches in particular.
Have you ever passed the early weeks of Autumn in the country? We do not mean any of those places of general notoriety in the neighborhood of our cities, where thousands throng daily to inhale the pure air, as they term it, when the faintest breeze or the merest capful of wind is divided among some hundred open throats—where a score or two of persons crowd into every shade and arbor, to enjoy the sweet retirement and solitude of the scene-where the sportsman, arrayed in as many trappings as if bound for a trip across the Rocky Mountains, trudges manfully over the fields, his very gun almost ready to go off of its own accord in the excitement of the moment; and when he has
perambulated some half dozen miles of country, besides climbing any number of rail fences, to the no small detriment of his unwhisperables, in the shape of sundry ghastly and gaping rents, at which ever and anon he stops to gaze,“ more in sorrow than in anger,” he returns perchance with some solitary and luckless meadow-lark or robin dangling triumphanıly from the end of his fowling-piece. Such places are well enough for a day's ramble; they are a pleasant relief to the habitant of the close and noisy town-but call them not the country. Go to some far-off quiet little spot among the hills, where you will see scarcely a person for the week together, save those who dwell in the scattered farm-houses; where the woods are vocal with other sounds than those of men, and a due proportion of oxygen is preserved in the atmosphere, in which every breath you draw is a repeated pleasure. Ay, there you feel what it is to live-and living, to be free. There, and there only, is it a pleasure to get up early of a morning. The cool and bracing air gives an unwonted buoyancy and life to the whole man. It bears no rank and steaming fumes to disgust the nostrils, but is laden with the fragrance of gardens and flowers. It steals in at your window with the gentleness of a zephyr ; it plays with your locks, and fans your brow with its unseen spirit-wings. Then go into the cool grove, as the sun waxes warm in his ascent, and tell me if there is not enchantment in it. Sit yourself down upon that mossy knoll, and listen to the chorus of sweet voices sending up their anthem of joy from every tree and bough. The dense and interwoven branches shut out the strong and garish glare of day; while a few straggling sunbeams shimmer down through the leaves, and throw a tempered and grateful light on all around. Softly from that fountaim trickles the crystal water, dropping on the rock beneath with its gently lulling sound. The voice of that running brook steals with its dreamy influence over your senses, as its winds along its smooth and well-worn bed, and dallies with the wild flowers that hang droopingly from its tursy margin. The bee, “ hiding his murmurs in the rose," and the fairy-like humming-bird, hovering for a moment over some chosen flower, then darting away with the swiftness of an arrow in quest of one more dainty still, mingle their sound with other and louder notes, and make melting music on the ear; save when you have as an accompaniment the tinkling hum of a score or two of musketoes about your head-then we confess there is one strain too much to make harmony in your feelings.
Of all the months in the year to spend in the country, commend me to September. When the fields are still clothed in their mantle of living green-when the golden harvest is waving in the breeze-when the orchard is bending with its rich and pulpy burden, all waiting to be plucked--when the woods are decked in all their gorgeous livery, and the glorious sun goes down into the west to bathe his beams in a sea of molten gold—then of all periods is the country most beautiful. The sad and sombre season has not arrived--the leaves are not yet strewing the ground, save some scattered few that have untimely fallen–they are just changing from their original hue into the rich and many-tinted dyes of early autumn-the forest is indeed putting on its most “ beautisul garments”—the “melancholy days” are yet to come. Stay not
then in the city_" cabined, cribbed, confined" in its brick and blackened walls. There brawling traffic stuns the ear with its ceaseless din ; there crowded life jostles and rolls along the streets ; there the reeking fumes assail you from a thousand dank and dirty holes, into which men, like toads and lizards, creep, and think they live. Oh, give me a few weeks in the country then. Pleasant then it is to range the free woods in quest of game ; to hear the whirr of the startled partridge, and the chuckling bark of the grey squirrel, telling you in so many words to catch him if you can. Zounds! isn't he a splendid creature ? To see him trotting gently along the ground, his broad, beautiful tail waving gracefully in the air, and anon to see hiin bounding from one tree-top to another with a rapidity you can scarcely equal on the ground beneath him; and more than all, to see him, after you have got a crack at him with your rifle, come crashing and lumbering down through the branches-oh, isn't it excitement ? If not, we don't know what that word means. But do not take one of those broad-mouthed, brass-banded, flint-locked things, which you now and then find in the country, and which have seen service as long ago as the old French war. We have had something to do with them on one or two occasions; and a fractured collar-bone is one of the pleasant reminiscences of our early experience. It takes half a pound of ammunition to load one of them, and when you have done so, it expends its force equally in both directions ; or in other words, it proves the truth of a somewhat indefinite proposition in mechanics, that when two bodies are in contact, the retrograde is equal to the projectile force. Provide yourself with a light double-barreled fowling-piece, if you do not use a rifle, which, with a keen eye and a steady hand, is far preferable. Go into the woods when the first gray of morning is streaking the east and rendering objects just visible, if you would be in season to have the best success. Step lightly over the ground-rustle not a leaf-crack not a stick with your foot-fall-keep a sharp look-out, and if you don't go home with a heavy string of the nut-eating quadrupeds, as well as with a stomach empty and clamorous for breakfast, you don't understand the business, that's all. But it is glorious exercise. Then too, the evening table loaded with peaches, plums, watermelons, and the like-it makes one's mouth water to think of it.
Talking of watermelons, reminds us of more than one break-neck adventure in the line of “hooking fruit,” as it is termed. They are a poor apology for a luxury, as we usually have them in the city, and at our public tables ; but take them from the vine, fresh and cool, with the dew upon them, and they are quite a different thing--especially if you have seduced them from the garden of some crusty old churl-have eluded iwo or three watch-dogs, and leaped half a score of hedges in obtaining them. A tolerable story was told us not long since by a friend who had spent some years in a southern state, which will serve as an illustration of this topic. Some four or five of his associates were in the habit of " taking a tramp” into the country every Saturday after. noon, to call on some planier of their acquaintance, and taste of his hospitality by way of a visit to his fruit. Three or four miles from