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to describe a meeting which is always better imagined than described. Let it suffice, that after the most affectionate greeting, which extended to every servant about the premises, I was ushered to my bed room at a late hour, with as much of state as could be mustered about the now decaying establishment, and soon sunk into a profound slumber, well earned by the toils and fatigues of my journey. Early the next morning, before I left my room, my excellent and revered uncle paid me a visit, and ordered in the never failing julap,—such a one as would have done honor to Chotank. At the same time he suggested to me that he would greatly prefer my taking a mixture of his own, which he extolled as much as Don Quixote did his balsam to Sancho, or Dr. Sangrado his warm water to Gil Blas. It was a pleasant beverage, he said, compounded of an acid and an alkali. He had discovered, by close observation, that all diseases had their origin in acid, and that alkali of course was the grand panacea; even poisons were acids, and he had no doubt that he should be able to form a concrete mass, by means of beef gall and alkali, which would resemble and equal in virtue the mad stone. If I felt the slightest acidity of stomach, I would find myself relieved by one of his powders. He had written to Dr. Rush on the subject, and he showed me a letter from that gentleman, at which he laughed heartily, and in which the doctor protested he might as well attempt to batter the rock of Gibraltar with mustard seed shot, as to attack the yellow fever with alkali. I could not help smiling at the earnestness of my dear uncle, and assured him that I had no doubt of the virtues of his medicine, but as I was quite well, I would rather try the anti-fogmatic; and if I should feel indisposed I would resort to his panacea; although I secretly re
I solved to have as little to do with it as Gil Blas had with water.
Having dressed myself, and descended to the breakfast room, I there met my aunt and cousin, who soon made me acquainted with the present condition of the family. Every thing was fast declining, in consequence of the total absorption of the mind of my uncle in his
visionary schemes; and I saw abundant evidence of the wreck of his fortune, in the absence of a thousand comforts and elegancies which I had been accustomed to behold. He soon joined us, and such was his excellence of character, that we carefully avoided casting the smallest damp upon his ardor. Indeed, he was a man of great natural talent, and much acquired information, and was far above the ridicule which was sometimes played off upon him by his more ignorant neighbors. I almost begin to think that we were the mistaken ones, when I look around and see the perfection of many of his schemes, which I then thought wholly impracticable. When old Simon thought that a carriage could never go without animel nater he certainly never dreamed of a rail road car, nor of the steam carriages of England; and when my uncle gravely told me that he should fill up his ice house, and manufacture ice as he wanted it in summer, by letting out air highly condensed in a tight copper vessel upon water, I did not dream of the execution of the plan by some French projector. I must not be thus diffuse, or I shall weary the patience of my reader.
A ride was proposed after breakfast, and my uncle immediately invited me to try his newly invented vehicle, which could not be overset. “I have constructed," said he, "a carriage with a moveable perch, by means of which the body swings out horizontally, whenever the wheels on one side pass over any high obstacle or ground more elevated than the other wheels rest upon; and I shall be glad to exhibit it to a young man who is fresh from college, and must be acquainted with the principles of mechanics. I readily accepted his proposal, although I trembled for my neck, but declared I had no mechanical turn whatever, and could not construct a wheelbarrow. He was sorry to hear this, as he was in hopes I would be the depository of all his schemes, and bring them to perfection, in case of his death, for the benefit of his family. We soon set off on our ride, and Simon was the driver. As I anticipated, in descending a hill where the ground presented great inequality, the whole party were capsized, and nothing saved our
bones but the lowness of our vehicle. Never shall I forget the chagrin of my uncle, nor the impatient contemptuous look of Simon, as he righted the carriage ; he did not dare to expostulate with his master, but could not forbear saying that he had never met with such an accident when he drove his four greys. “Ah, there is the cause,” said my uncle, much gratified at having an excuse for his failure, “Simon is evidently intoxicated; old man, never presume to drive me again when you are not perfectly sober; you will ruin the most incomparable contrivance upon earth.” Simon contented himself with a sly wink at me, and we made the best of our way home; my uncle promising me another trial in a short time, and I determining to avoid it, if human ingenuity could contrive the means.
The next day, as I was amusing myself with a book, my uncle came in from his work-shop, with a face beaming with pleasure; and entering the room, proceeded in the most careful manner to close all the
and producing a small crooked stick, said to me with a mysterious air, “My boy, this stick, as small and inconsiderable as it seems to be, has made your fortune. It is worth a million of dollars, for it has suggested to me an improvement in my machine for producing perpetual motion, which puts the thing beyond all doubt.” “Is it possible,” cried I, “that so small a stick can be worth so much ?” “Yes, depend upon it-and I carefully closed the doors, because I would not be overheard for the world. Some fellow might slip before me to the patent office, and rob me of my treasure." I observed that nobody was there who could possibly do so. “Yes, somebody might be casually passing, and I cannot be too vigilant. I take it for granted,” he resumed, “that you are apprised of the grand desideratum in this business. You do not imagine, with the ignorant, that I expect to make matter last longer than God intended; the object is to get a machine to keep time so accurately, that it may be used at sea, to ascertain the longitude with precision. Do you know that a gentleman has already constructed a time piece, for which the Board of Longitude paid him
fifty thousand pounds; but owing to the metallic expansion it would not be entirely accurate." I answered that I had not so much as heard of the Board of Longitude-and he proceeded to explain his improvement, of which I did not comprehend a syllable. All that I felt sure of, although I did not tell him so, was that he would not succeed in realizing the million of dollars; and accordingly, when admitted, as a great favor into his sanctum sanctorum, the work-shop, to witness his machine put in motion, it stood most perversely still after one revolution, and “some slight alteration,” remained to be made to the end of the chapter,-until hope became extinct in every breast, save that of the projector.
I could fill a volume with anecdotes of this sort, but I will add only one, as descriptive of the very great height to which visionary notions may be carried. My uncle was a federalist, and of course hated Buonaparte from the bottom of his soul. He told me, as a profound secret, that he had discovered the means of making an old man young again, by removing from him the atmospheric pressure, and that nothing deterred him from making the discovery, but the fear that Buonaparte would attach his machinery to a body of soldiers, and fly across the British Channel, and thus light down in the midst of England, and make an easy conquest of the only barrier left upon earth to secure the liberties of mankind. Eheu! jam satis! thought I.
In this way did my poor uncle spend his time, to the utter ruin of a fine estate, which was surrendered to the management of that most pestilent of the human race, an overseer, who would not at last be at the trouble of furnishing the old gentleman with wood enough to keep him
warm in his spacious edifice. The means he resorted to, to reprove the overseer, were not less characteristic and laughable than many of his singular notions. One very cold day he sent for him; the man attended, and was ushered with much solemnity into an apartment where a single chump was burning feebly in the chimney place, and a table was standing in the centre of the room, covered with papers, pen and
ink. My uncle received him with unusual courtesy, and ordered the servant to set a chair for Mr. Corncob by the fire, with a peculiar emphasis on the word. “I have sent for you, Mr. Corncob,” said he, “to get you to witness my will. You see, sir,” pointing at the same time to the fire, "you see, sir, how small a probability there is that I shall survive the present winter. I am anxious to settle my affairs previous to my being attacked by the pleurisy, and have therefore sent for you to aid me in doing so.” This was a severe reproof, and the man having done as he was bid, retired with an air the most sheepish imaginable.
I fill up the picture, by stating that I married my cousin, and inherited the estate in due course of time; but a mortgage swallowed it up as effectually as an earthquake—and poor old Simon died of a broken heart, when Regulus was knocked off at the sale of his master's property, at twenty dollars, to the man whom he hated of all others, Christopher Corncob, Esquire.
Are garnered up in thee !-
That none the heart can see-
Close curtain'd from the view;
Man's hell and heaven too.
The curtain, thrown around,
It is his hallowed ground:
So potent is his spell,
Or turn aside the veil.