페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

dreadful tangle. When he learned that he was seven Fourths in arrears, he was depressed; but he sent out and bought a box of firecrackers and a barrel of gun-powder, and spent a week catching up.

(Tell this vivaciously, and make the point that none but a member of the other party could forget the glorious anniversary of our country's birth, and say that the whole party will have to do up a lot of back patriotism some day, if it desires to catch up with the people whose devotion to the country is encouraged and kept active by our side.)

5. Arguments, supplemented with the narrative of a confiding man who had such child-like faith in a patent fire extinguisher which he had purchased that he set fire to his house merely to have the fun of putting it out. The fire burned furiously, but the exlinguisher gare only two or three imbecile squirts and then collapsed, and in two hours his residence was in ashes. Go on to say that our enemies have applied the torch of anarchy to the edifice of this government, but that there is an extinguisher which will not only Not collapse, but will subdue the flames and quench the incendiary organization, and that extinguisher is our party. (Allow time for applause here.)

6. Arguments, introducing the story of the Sussex county farmer who was discouraged because his wife was perfidious. Before he was married she vowed over and over again that she could chop four cords of wood a day, but after the ceremony the farmer found he was deceived. The treacherous woman could not chop more than tuo cords and a half, and so the dream of the husband was dissipated, and he demanded a divorce as the only balm for the wounds which lacerated his heart. Let this serve to illustrate the point that our political enemies have deceived us with promises to reduce the debt, to institute reforms, etc., etc., none of which they have kept, and now we must have the government separated from them by such a divorce as will be decreed to-morrow, etc., etc.

7. Peroration, working in if posssible the story of Commodore Scudder's dog, which, while out with its master one day, pointed at some partridges. The commodore was about to fire, but he suddenly received orders to go off on a three years' cruise, so he dropped his gun, left the dog standing there and uent right io sed. When he returned, three years later, he went back to the field, and there was his gun, there was the skeleton of the dog still standing and pointing just as he had left it, and a little farther on were the skeletons of the partridges. Show how our adversaries in their relation to the negro question, resemble that dog. We came away years ago and left them pointing at the negro question, and we come back now to find that they are at it yet. Tork this in carefully, and conclude in such a manner as to excite frantic applause.

It was not much of a speech, I know. Some of the arguments were weak, and several of the stories failed to fit into their places comfortably. But mass meetings do not criticise closely, and I was persuaded I should make a good im

pression, provoking laughter and perhaps exciting enthusiasm. The only time that could be procured for study of the speech was that consumed by the journey. So when the train started I took my notes from my pocket and learned them by heart. Then came the task of enlarging them, in my mind, into a speech. This was accomplished satisfactorily. I suppose that speech was repeated at least ten times between New Castle and Dover until at last I had it at my tongue's end. In the cars the seat next to mine was occupied by a colored gentleman, who seemed to be a little nervous when he perceived that I was muttering something continually; and he was actually alarmed once or twice when in exciting passages I would forget myself and gesticulate violently in his direction. Finally, when I came to the conclusion and was repeating to myself the exhortation, “Strike for your altars and your fires,” etc., etc., I emphasized the language by striking fiercely at the floor with the ferule of my umbrella. It hit something soft. I think it was the corn of my colored friend, for he leaped up hurriedly, and ejaculating “Gosh!" went up and stood by the watercooler during the rest of the journey, looking at me as if he thought it was dangerous for such a maniac to be at large.

When the train arrived at Dover, I was gratified to find the chairman of the local committee and eighteen of his fellow-citizens waiting for me with carriages and a brass band. As I stepped from the car the band played “See, the Conquering Hero comes !” I marched into the waiting-room of the depot, followed by the committee and the band. The chairman and his friends formed a semi-circle and stared at me. I learned afterward that they had received information from Wilmington that I was one of the most remarkable orators in the State. It was impossible not to perceive that they regarded me already with enthusiastic admiration; and my heart sank a little as I reflected upon the possibility of failure.

Then the music ceased, and the chairman proposed “three cheers for our eloquent visitor.” The devoted beings around him cheered lustily. The chairman thereupon came forward and welcomed me in the following terms:

“My dear sir, it is with unfeigned satisfaction that I have - may I say the exalted honor ?-of welcoming you to the city of Dover. You come, sir, at a moment when the heart of every true patriot beats high with hope for a glorious triumph over the enemies of our cherished institutions; you come, sir, at a time when our great party, the true representative of American principles and the guardian of our fiberties, bends to grapple with the deadly foe of our country; at a time, sir, when the American eagle-proud bird, which Boars, as we would, to the sun-screams forth its defiance of treason, and when the banner of the free, the glorious emblem of our nationality, waves us onward to victory; you come, sir, to animate with your eloquence the hearts of our fellow-citizens; to inspire with your glowing language the souls of those who shrink from performing their duty in this contest; to depict in words of burning, scathing power the shame, the disgrace, the irretrievable ruin, which will befall our land if its enemies are victorious, and to hold up those enemies, as you well know how, to the scorn and contempt of all honest men. We give you a hearty welcome, then, and assure you that Dover will respond nobly to your appeal, giving to-morrow such a vote for justice, truth, and the rights of man that the conservative wolf will shrink back in dismay to his lair. Welcome, sir, thrice welcome, to our city!"

I stood looking at this man throughout his speech with a conviction, constantly growing stronger, that I should be obliged to reply to him at some length. The contemplation of such a thing, I need hardly say, filled me with horror. I had never made a speech of the kind that would be required in my life, and I felt positively certain that I could not accomplish the task now. I had half a mind to hurl at the heads of this chairman and his attendant fiends the entire oration prepared for the evening; but that seemed so dreadfully inappropriate that the idea was abandoned. And besides, what would I say at the mass meeting? The comfort of the situation was not, by any means, improved by the fact that these persons entertained the belief that I was an experienced speaker who would probably throw off a dozen brilliant things in as many sentences. It was exceedingly embarrassing; and when the chairman concluded his remarks, the cold perspiration stood upon my forehead and my knees trembled.

Happily, the leader of the band desired to make himself conspicuous, so he embraced the opportunity afforded by the pause to give us some startling variations of “The StarSpangled Banner.

As we stood there listening to the music, I observed that the energetic gentleman who played upon the drum and cymbals was looking at me with what seemed to be a scornful smile. He had a peculiarly cold eye, and as he fixed it upon me I felt that the frigid optic pierced through and through my assumption of ease and perceived what a miserable sham it was for me to stand there pretending to be an orator. I quailed before that eye. Its glance humiliated me; and I did not feel more pleasantly when, as the band dashed into the final quavers which bring up suggestions of“ the land of the free and the home of the brave," I saw the scorn which erst flashed from that eye change to a look of wild exultation. The cymbal man knew that my hvur had come. He gave a final clash with his brasses and paused. I had to begin. Bowing to the chairman, I said,

“Mr. Chairman and fellow-citizens, there are times—times .~there are times, fellow-citizens, when-times when--when the heart-there are times, I say, Mr. Chairman and fellowcitizens, when the heart--the heart of-of-_” It wouldn't do. I stuck fast, and could not get out another word.

The cold-eyed man seemed ready to play triumphal strains upon his drum and to smash out a pæan upon his cymbals. In the frenzy and desperation of the moment, I determined to take the poetry from my exordium and to jam it into the present speech, whether it was appropriate or not. I began again;

“There are times, I say, fellow-citizens and Mr. Chairman, when the heart inquires if there breathes a man with soul so dead, who never to himself hath said, “This is my own, my native land'-whose heart has ne'er within him burned as home his footsteps he hath turned from wanderings on a foreign shore? If such there breathe, go, mark him well!” (Here I pointed to the street, and one of the committee, who seemed not to comprehend the thing exactly, rushed to the window and looked out, as if he intended to call & policeman to arrest the wretch referred to.) “ For him no minstrel raptures swell." (Here the leader of the band bowed, as if he had a vague idea that this was a compliment ingeniously worked into the speech for his benefit; but the cold-eyed man had a sneering smile which seemed to say, “ It won't do, my man, it won't do. I can't be bought off in that manner.") "High though his titles, proud his name, boundless his wealth as wish can claim; despite these titles, power and pelf, the wretch, concentred all in self, living shall forfeit fair renown, and doubly dying shall go down to the vile dust from whence he sprung, unwept, unhonored and unsung."

I stopped. There was embarrassing silence for a moment, as if everybody thought I had something more to say. But I put on my hat and shouldered my umbrella to assure them that the affair was ended. Then it began to be apparent that the company failed to grasp the purpose of my remarks. One man evidently thought I was complaining of something that happened to me while I was upon the train, for he took me aside and asked me in a confidential whisper if it wouldn't be better for him to see the conductor about it.

Another man inquired if the governor was the man referred to.

I said, “No; the remarks were of a poetical nature; they were quoted."

The man seemed surprised, and asked where I got them from. "From Marmion."

He considered a moment, and then said, “Don't know hire, Philadelphia man, I recken?

TTT

The occasion was too sad for words. I took the chairman's arm and we marched out to the carriages, the cold-eyed man thumping his drum as if his feeling of animosity for me would kill him if it did not find vigorous expression of that kind.

We entered the carriages and formed a procession, the band, on foot, leading the way and playing “Hail to the Chief." I rode with the chairman, who insisted that I should carry the American flag in my hand. As we passed up the street the crowd cheered us vehemently several times. and the chairman said he thought it would be better if I would rise occasionally and bow in response. I did so, remarking, at the last, that it was rather singular such a reception should be given to a complete stranger.

The chairman said he had been thinking of that, and it had occurred to him just at that moment that perhaps the populace had mistaken the character of the parade.

"You see,” said he, “there is a circus in town, and I am a little bit afraid the people are impressed with the idea that this is the showman's procession, and that you are the Aerial King. That monarch is a man of about your build, and he wears whiskers.”

The Aerial King achieved distinction and a throne by leaping into the air and turning two backward somersaults before alighting, and also by standing poised upon one toe on a wire while he balanced a pole upon his nose. I had no desire to share the sceptre with that man, or to rob him of any of his renown, so I furled the flag of my beloved country, pulled my hat over my eyes and refused to bow again.

It was supper-time when we reached the hotel, and as soon as we entered, the chairman invited us into one of the parlors, where an elaborate repast had been prepared for the whole party. We went into the room, keeping step with a march played by the band, which was placed in the corner. When supper was over, it was with dismay that I saw the irrepressible chairman rise and propose a toast, to which he called upon one of the company to respond. I knew my turn would come presently, and there seemed to be no choice between the sacrifice of my great speech to this paltry occasion and utter ruin and disgrace. It appeared to me that the chairman must have guessed that I had but one speech, and that he had determined to force me to deliver it prematurely, so that I might be overwhelmed with mortification at the mass meeting. But I made up my mind to cling desperately to the solitary oration, no matter how much pressure was brought to bear to deprive me of it. So I resolved that if the chairman called upon me I would tell my number two story, giving the arguments, and omitting all of it from my speech in the evening.

He did call. When two or three men had spoken, the chairman offered the toast, “The orator of the evening," and

« 이전계속 »