ENTERTAINING SHORT STORIES
Robert Alexander Watson in Mrtropolitan
NOW this tale is about me cousin Jimmy, an’ happened many years ago. Jimmy was no sich a little runt iv a man as Oi am, though to tell yez the simple truth, there was a toime whin it took a mighty good back to git me off me feet, fer all iv us Hogans fer hundreds an’ hundreds iv years hev been master hands at wrestlin’. But Jimmy was a foine, upstandin’ figger iv a man, only lackin’ foive or six inches iv bein’ full six feet in his stockin’s—which same he niver wore, bein’ superstitious they’d give him rheumatiz.
Jimmy kem over before the War, bein’ greatly deluded about the customs an’ privileges iv a free country. On the second day nothin’ would do but he must give a diministration iv his skill wid a bit iv blackthorn, but be a stroke iv ill luck he picked out the wrong felly an’ was trim into jail. At first he was tumble hurt at what he called the horrid trichery iv the Goddess iv Liberty, but after thinkin’ it over, he paid his fine an’ made application to be put on the poleece force. Thin he discovered that the lad he had picked up wid his shillaly was none other thin Alderman Maguire, an’ though he sint ivery apology a human man could think iv, they wouldn’t put him on the foorce. Now Jimmy hadn’t come over to this counthry wid the noble intintion iv gittin’ wealthy be warkin’ on the siction, so afther wastin’ three months in New York try in’ to break into politics, he made up his mind to go to Californie, pick up a few bushels iv gowld, an’ thin go back to the Owld Sod an’ live loike a gintlemun the balance iv his days.
Well, all things come to an ind, as the big snake said as he swallied the little wan, an’ Jimmy finally arrived in Californie an’ started out to search fer gowld. ’Tis little enough he knew about it, niver havin’ had a pinch iv it hi hi$ whole loife; but he had al-
ways heard that it was yellow an’ shiny an’ naturally supposed it would be aisy enough to foind. But faith, instid iv gitin’ wealthy, he purty nigh starved to dith ; an’ he niver warked so hard before or since as he did thryin’ to git rich widout warkin’. He would do anny owld job until he got a little stake ahead, an’ thin he would pike out wid his pick over his shoulder an’ his rations on wan iv thim little mules about the size iv an ablebodied goat.
On wan iv these thrips he got plumb entoirely lost an’ wandered around until he ate up all iv his grub, an’ thin, bein’ as the little mule had no further duties to perform, he just naturally turned in an’ ate up the little mule. It was a cruel, hard thing to do, an’ he said it near broke his heart, but the little mule niver had a happy look in his eyes at the best, an’, not to make too much fuss about it, it was Jimmy’s loife or the mule’s, an’ the mule drew the short straw. Jimmy said that istimatin’ the mule’s age be his toughness he had probably fell overboord from the ark, an’ swimmin’ behind her the best part iv a year had give him muscles loike a bobwire fince.
Well, Jimmy made soide thrips aich day, cornin’ back to the carcass iv the little mule at noight until at last the’ was nawthin lift but a few round steaks, which was that dried up that all they needed was howls drilled through the cinter an’ they’d ’a’ made illigent carwheels. Wan day Jimmy wandered up a rocky little gorge which grew narrower ivery stip until it became a cave. He was intoirly disheartened, and crept into the cave ixpectin’ to lay down an’ die ; but afther he had gone a small bit iv a way into the cave he noticed a light ahid, loike a little young star iv hope, an’ he made for it. He found that the light kem from the other door iv the cave an’ it opened into a foine, splendid,
beautiful little valley, and iv all things there he saw a dappled horse ready saddled and bridled eating tufts of grass. Jimmy saw the saddle was pretty rotten but he mounted and sat careful, intendin’ to save his life by means of the animal. But just as he got settled he spied standin’ at the far ind a dacent little cabin wid a cute little strame iv wather runnin’ be the front dure. Jimmy put his hand on his gun ready to fight, for this horse might save his loife, but nobody appeared, an’ pretty soon he made up his mind to hunt for provisions, and he wint up to the dure, an’ afther knockin’ twice fer politeness, he pushed it open an’ walked in. The’ wasn’t a sowl in sight, which was a great surprise fer the cabin was all fitted up fer aisy livin’. The’ was bacon hangin’ from the roof an’ sugar an’ tay an’ all kinds iv tools fer cookin’. He walked over an’ opened the lid iv a bin an’ the’ was two good mule loads iv flour in it. “Well, be the powers!” sez Jimmy. “If only Oi had the duflication gifts o’ the prophet Elijah, Oi’d sittle down here fer the balance iv me days. Oi’d let the horse go and visit right here.”
Afther satisfying himself that he would be given good forage whin the owner kem back, he helped himself to a liberal supply iv tobacco an’ took a stroll about the valley. The more he saw iv it the betther he liked it an’ the more he hoped that the felly who owned the little cabin would tease him to make a long visit, fer company like. But whin the shades iv darkness fell an’ nobody came back, Jimmy said to himself that he’d ate no more sowl-leather mule steaks, owner or no owner, so he set to wark an’ cooked himself an illigent feast, an’, man, how he did enjoy it!
Well, he stayed there day afther day an’ nobody came back to bother him, until he began to look at the little cabin as his own, an’ he made up his moind that he’d go back to ’Frisco an’ buy a couple iv little mules an’ some goats an’ a few foine ducks an’ some garden seed ; as soon as he could save up enough fer the investment.
But he’d kind o’ got out iv the habit iv warkin’ be this toime, an’ it didn’t look good to him aven from a distance, so he used to go out in the cool o’ the marnin’ an’ pick around among the rocks to see if he couldn’t turn up a bit iv gowld, so ’at he wouldn’t have to wark for his mules an’ goats an’ sich; but, begorra, instid of foindin’ gowld he wan day turned up the skiliton iv a man.
Jimmy was wan iv those great philosophers who are always doin’ so many grand deeds in the future that they niver have anny kindlin’ split fer the marnin’ foire ; an’ so the first thing he knew winter kem on, an’ thin he was afeered to go on account iv snow-drifts an’ avalanches. But he had enough flour an’ most enough bacon to last him through the winter, so he made up his moind to contint himself wid his good luck an’ not draw down the curses iv Hiven be wishin’ he had more. The warst lack he had was a bit iv the crature. Niver in all his loife had he passed a Christmas widout havin’ a little somethin’ out iv a bottle to cheer himself wid; an’ he knew it wouldn’t be loike Christmas at all if he wint to bed sober.
This weighed pretty heavy on his mind as the season drew along, till he could think iv nothin’ else. Still the’ wasn’t anny way to git it widout goin’ clear to some town an’, faith, he didn’t aven know the direction to start. He sez that he didn’t crave the whisky right at that time, but that whinever he got to thinkin’ iv Christmas he had a most horrible gnawin’ at his heart, till he most came to the conclusion that if he had to pass the day widout a single drop, the’ would be as manny dead men inside the cabin as out.
On the very day before Christmas he dropped the lid iv a pot an’ it rolled under his bunk. He was horribly down heartened an’ his timper was loike a bear’s ; so he shook his fist at the bunk an’ stamped up and down an’ hollered, “Kape it ! kape it ! kape it ! ye owld spalpeen ! Do yez think that a man who is starvin’ to death fer a drop iv whisky is goin’ to
bother his head over an owld baste iv a pot-lid?”
Thin he thought iv how his loife had been saved be foindin’ the little cabin an’ he filt ashamed iv himself an’ retched in to git the lid, but instid, he filt a boord. He pulled at the boord, but couldn’t git it up an’ this put him on a keen edge, because all iv his folks is jist soggy with curiosity. Well Jimmy jerked the bunk out iv the way an’ took a pick an’ tore up the boord, an’ faith, it was the lid iv a chist an’ in the chist was a big hape of owld letthers, which did him no good at all, because iver since his greatgrandfather had been hung fer forgery niver a Hogan had iver learned the manly art iv radin’ writin’. But down in the bottom iv the chist was a sight which made Jimmy’s eyes pop out loike the glass drawer-pulls on an owld-fashioned chaffinure—a foine, fat, able-bodied brown jug, an’ wid a heart that struck twice a second Jimmy pulled the coork out iv it. He put his nose to the mouth iv the jug, an’ he swears to this day that the whiff he took wint clear down to his toes an’ filled ’em wid such roysterous divilmint that the first he knew he had his arm about the waist iv the jug an’ was steppin’ out the “Fairy in the Bog.”
Finally he took a little taste iv the foine, mellow, sthrong, owld stuff, an’ then he fell on his knees an’ give thanks—fer the first toime in a year. The Hogans was always dacint, Godfearin’ men, but it took some remarkable an’ onexpected blissin’ to get ’em to their knees—exceptin’ in church, iv course, where all could see, an’ they’d set a good example.
He was jist about to close the lid of the chist, whin there, lyin’ concealed in the shaddy, was a cute little flute, an’ thin Jimmy’s cup iv happiness was full to the brim, because his own uncle Danny had taught him how to blow the flute an’ had said, toime an’ agin, that nixt to himself, Jimmy was the bist fluter in the Imerald Isle. An’ this was no light thing a'ther, fer Uncle Danny could toot a flute so melojously that the burds in the trees would stop their
amateur whistlin’ an’ cock their heads on wan soide to hear what rale music was, an’ he got near kilt in Belfast wan day be playin’ a reel wid sich divilmint that a sour-faced owld Prisbaterian broke into a jig on the very street.
Jimmy knew that he was goin’ to have a foine Christmas now, so he hurried through his supper an’ thin got out the flute an’ the whisky, an’ faith, it must hev been a great soight to see how smoothly iverything worked. He would blow the flute until his throat got dry, an’ thin he would sip the whisky until it filled him wid a new tune—the wan balacin’ agin the other until Jimmy said “he filt loike the Jack on a teeterin’ boord.” Faith, he wasn’t a bit lonesome thin, because the’ was three iv them there—three good comrades—the flute, the whisky, an’ himsilf.
He began to cilibrate at sundown an’ be tin o’clock he was pretty will tuned up ; so he wint to bed, because he always said that it was possible fer a man to git too full iv licquor to in joy it, an’ that no smsible person would waste wan iv the bist gifts iver given to sinful man. So he put his arms around the jug an’ kissed it goodnight, an’ he thanked the flute koindly fer a plisint avenin’, an’ went dacint!y to bed wid his feet on a chair an’ his head under the table, because his bunk was so full iv dance tunes that it wouldn’t stand still, but kept waltzin’ about the room.
He woke up promptly at twelve o’clock. He sez he niver could roightly till whether it was twelve o’clock that same noight or the nixt, but anny how it was jist twelve an‘ the’ was a strange lookin’ little man in the room —a little owld man wid long white hair an’ long white whiskers an’ long danglin’ arms, but wid little short legs stickin’ up out iv big cow-hide boots ’at would hev helt him to the earth in a cyclone.
Jimmy’s head was thumpin’ like a pile-driver an’ he was in no plisant temper at bein’ woke up out iv his soberin’ slape, so he growls out, “What do yez want?” sez he.
“Oi wants me body,” sez the little owld man, jist as cross as Jimmy.
“Will, Oi ain’t got yer body,” sez Jimmy. “What do yez mane be cornin’ around at this toime of noight, askin’ foolish questions an’ riddles an’ sich? Oi ain’t no fartune teller.”
“Oi wants me body,” sez the little owld man, wid his under jaw stickin’ out an’ standin’ in the moonlight an’ lookin’ Jimmy straight in the eye, which same was no aisy thing to do, fer Jimmy had an eye that could charm a boa canstrictor into a walkin’stick. “Oi wants me body. Oi left it lyin’ right where that spittoon is.” “Ye lie!” sez Jimmy, fer he was a quick-timpered man in his cups. “Oi’ve slept in this cabin ivery noight fer three months an’ there’s been niver a body lyin’ about that spittoon in that toime. Who are yez an’ what koind iv a body was it yez lost?”
“Oi didn’t want to give yez no imprission,” sez the little owld man, talcin’ the big word aisy an’ graceful, like a hunter goin’ over a foive-barred gate, fer he had a grand iducation, the little man had—“Oi didn’t want to give yez no imprission that that there box was a-settin’ on that identical spot whin Oi left me body, but that Oi left me body roight on the very identical spot where that there box is a-settin’ now.”
The little owld man leaned forward an’ shook his finger in Jimmy’s face, an’ Jimmy niver could bear to have anny man do that. “Don’t shoot yer dirty owld finger off at me,” sez Jimmy. “Oi niver saw any owld bodies lying around here at all. What sort iv a lookin’ body was it an’ what made yes so careless wid it?”
“It was me own body, ye numskull !” sez the little owld man.
“Yer own body!” sez Jimmy, wakin’ up entoirely. “Well, what is that misshapen thing yez have on?”
“Oi’m a gowst !” sez the little owld man, swellin’ up wid anger loike a toad.
Jimmy stood up an’ looked at him a moment to see that he was in arnest an’ thin he falls back on the bunk an’ fairly howls wid laughter.
“Well, be all the frogs iv Agypt !”
sez Jimmy as soon as he could git. his brith. “If Oi thought that Oi was goin’ to draw sich a lookin’ thing as that whin Oi bekem a blissed gowst Oi’d start out to-morrow to look fer the Three iv Loife. Not wishin’ to be disrespectful nor to hurt yer feelin’s, me friend, Oi’ll give yez me plighted troth that Oi’d sooner niver die at all thin to become sich a lookin’ gowst as you.”
“Miserable man,” sez the gowst, fer Jimmy was makin’ him pretty tol’able wrothy, “if yez don’t hilp me foind me body Oi’ll hant yez to death, so Oi will.”
“Ye will?” sez Jimmy. “Humph, Oi’ll jist set roight here an’ watch ye. Sure it would tickle me half to death to see the loikes iv ye doin’ a few stunts ’at would put the fear iv death into my heart.”
“Oi am a SPIRIT !” sez the gowst in a deep, holler voice, loike a bulldog in an empty barrel ; an’ then he made his eyes flame an’ smoke an’ wave about in his head loike a lobster’s, an’ his hair glittered loike fox-foire, an’ he danced an’ pranced an’ floated around the room in a way to freeze the blood iv a common man, but Jimmy was na common man; he was a Hogan to the bone iv him.
“Will, me owld college chump,” sez Jimmy after the gowst had tired himself out, “as ye say, ye’re ownly a spirit, whoile Oi’m a spirit an’ a body both. We’re wan too many fer yez, me boy. Why, Oi could take a good, healthy little monkey an’ a bit iv sulphur an’ mek a fearsomer lookup gowst thin you in foive minutes.”
Whin the gowst saw that there was no way to frighten Jimmy, he sobered down an’ sat on the edge iv a moonbeam, lookin’ as sorrowful as little Larry O’Brien the day he fell in the cask iv whisky, an’ him with the mumps so bad he couldn’t swally a drop.
“It’s a burnin’ shame,” he whined in a sad, sorrowful, woeful koind iv a discouraged loike voice, “to think that you came an’ tuk possession iv me cabin an’ me flour an’ me bacon, an’ thin whin Oi ask ye a civil favor yez act loike a hathen Chinee.”
“Ah, begorra,” sez Jimmy, “that’s a different way to look at it entoirely. Why didn’t yez begin that way? Whiniver ye hev a favor to ask a Hogan don’t begin be thryin’ to scare him to death ; because that’s about the only way they niver git kilt. Now till me dacint an’ sinsible what became iv yer body, an’ Oi’ll be proud to help ye look fer it, toird as Oi am.”
“Oi was warkin’ a bit iv a mine,” sez the gowst, wipin’ his face wid a red bandana; “an’ Oi had a foine piece iv luck, an’ thin a felly be the name iv Black-Whiskered Pete cut me throat in this very cabin ; an’ before Oi learned how to hawnt the body was hid away—but they niver found the gowld.”
“Oh, ho!” sez Jimmy prickin’ up his ears. “The’ was some gowld, hu? An’ where is that same gowld now?” “Oi’ll not till yez,” sez the gowst. “Sure all the plisure Oi have left is lookin’ at me gowld an’ plannin’ what a good toime Oi could have if ownly Oi could spind it.”
“ ’Tis hard up fer fun yez are,” sez Jimmy. “Why didn’t ye drop in a bit airlier whin Oi was playin’ the flute, an Oi’d ’a’ shown yez a hape merrier toime thin gloatin’ over a hape iv owld gowld ’at yez can’t aven spind. By the way iv a little divarsion, why don’t yez hawnt Black-Whiskered Pete till his beard turns as white as the driven snow, though fer the loife iv me Oi could niver see that driven snow was anny whiter than snow that was standin’ peacefully in a twinty-foot drift.”
Thin the memory iv thim owld bones he had dug up flashed across Jimmy’s mimory an’ he knew he had the gowst in his power. “Now listen to me,” sez he; “an Oi’ll tell ye jist how the matter stands. Oi know where yer body is an’ you know where yer gowld is.. The body is not much use to me except as fertilizer, perhaps, but the gowld is no good at all to you ; why, man, yer onrasonable ; here you’ve been wastin’ real gowld in buyin’ imaginary articles; don’t yez know that ye can buy jist as manny imaginary articles wid imaginary gowld as .yez can wid rale gowld?
Use a little common sinse; you tell me where the gowld is an’ Oi’ll give yez the foinest funeral in me power. Faith, an’ if the’s anny whisky left Oi’ll aven howld a wake over ye—as uproarious a wake as yez iver wint to ! Oi was always a master hand at wakes.”
An’ that was no lie ather, fer faith, when Jimmy wint to a wake they had to tie the carpse in his cofffn to kape him from disgracin’ the family be gittin’ out an’ dancin’ on the flure.
“The’s not many candles left,” sez Jimmy, “an’ that’s a disgrace to yersilf, it is; but O’ll burn wan.at yer head an’ at yer feet ; an’ thin bury ye wid the whisky jug at yer feet an’ a cross at yer head ; an’ if that ain’t a fair price fer an owld body wid its airshaft cut, thin Oi’m a Jew.”
Will, the gowst saw that Jimmy had him, but still he was an obstinate little specter, and sat there on the moonbeam wid a long drawn-out expression on his face thryin’ to make up his moind.
Jimmy leaned forward an’ put his hand on his knee an’ sez in his most wheedlin’ tone : “Man, haven’t yez anny jedgmint at all, at all; ye’ll be the ownly man in history that iver had the opportunity iv dancin’ at his own wake. Don’t lose yer chanst, it may be yer last.”
Will, the gowst couldn’t turn down sich an opportunity as that. He had a dash iv vanity in his make up, the same as me or you, an’ whin he saw that he had a chanst to establish a new record that would give him the roight to brag for the balance iv eternity he came around the bush an’ took his medicine loike a little man.
He showed Jimmy where the gowld was buried, an’ murther, but the’ was a pack iv it; an’ thin Jimmy rowled the bones up in a blanket an’ laid ’em out on the bunk, straight an’ dacint an’ ivery wan in its place; an’ the nixt avenin’ they helt a most illigant wake; the gowst sittin’ be the jug an’ sniffin’ at the whisky, while Jimmy drank it out iv a tin-cup an’ blew smoke in the gowst’s face. The gowst was so rejoiced to see his body gittin’ Christian treatment at last that he
warmed up an’ bekem as sociable as a poor relation.
The nixt day Jimmy dug a foine deep grave an’ put in the bones all straight an’ roomy, an put the impty jug at the foot an’ a nate little cross at the head, an’ said all the prayers he could ramimber, an’ finished off be carvin’ the name iv the gowst on the cross—copyin’ it from wan iv the owld letthers what was in the chist.
After that, iv course, the gowst could go annywhere he wanted to ; but he had taken a great fancy to Jimmy, which was nawthin’ to be surprised at, because, man or maid, ’twas a hard thing to kape from doin’ that same thing; so he used to float in ivery avenin’ fer a bit iv a chat an’ to hear Jimmy play on the flute. Jimmy sez it was moighty foine fer
him an’ kept him from gittin’ lonesome.
The gowst told Jimmy the short cut back to ’Frisco, an’ Jimmy promised to do the roight thing in the way iv masses as soon as he arrived. Wan avenin’ toward spring, the gowst towld Jimmy that the letthers in the chist was from his woife, an’ if he could foind her to give her a bit iv the gowld, because the’ was plinty fer both, an’ Jimmy promised, fer he loiked the gowst an’ was always willin’ to oblige a friend. An’ it was these same letthers ’at led him into givin’ away the howtil fer a Christmas prisint—but Hivens ! look at the toime ! If Oi don’t go home at wance, Bridget will be cornin’ afther me. OiTl have to finish the tale some ither avenin’. Good-noight, boys, Goodnoight.