“The Lottery Ticket” (from Robert Merry’s Museum)
Part 1 (January 1844; pp. 13-16)
There was once a poor, but worthy man, whose name was Trudge. He was a pedler, and though he dealt only in pins, needles, thread, combs and such little articles, he succeeded in getting a comfortable living. Nay, more—he laid up a trifle every year, and finally he had enough to buy him a small house. He had a wife and two or three children, and to this humble cottage they speedily removed.
Trudge thought himself very happy when he was snugly established at his new house. He kissed Mrs. Trudge, and all the little Trudges; danced “hey
Betty Martin!” and thought himself one of the luckiest fellows in the world. And so he was, if he could have been content; but, alas! he was beset with certain very troublesome visiters; they were Ambition, Envy and Idleness. I must tell you all about it.
As Trudge travelled about the country selling his wares, he noticed some fine houses, around which he always saw nice carriages, gay horses, and well-dressed people, who seemed to have nothing to do but to amuse themselves. This made Trudge feel uneasy, and he said to himself—“Why was n’t I rich, and why can’t I live in a fine house, and be a gentleman? Here I am—only a pedler—poor Tom Trudge—and it’s all trudge, trudge, from morning to night; winter and summer, fair or foul, hot or cold, I must trudge, trudge! If I was rich, and lived in a fine house, I should be Thomas Trudge, Esq., and then I should be as good as anybody. I should have easy carriages and fat, slick horses, and Mrs. Trudge would be a fine lady!”
Thus it was that poor Tom indulged his fancy, and all the time Envy and Ambition and Idleness were at work within, making him very unhappy. Envy made him feel a sort of hatred toward people who were richer than himself. Ambition urged him to make every effort to be rich; and, at the same time, Idleness told him that the greatest comfort in life was to have nothing to do. Thus it was that Tom, who had a neat pretty home, and every necessary comfort and convenience, was really miserable, because of these uneasy and uncomfortable thoughts.
Tom at last opened his mind to his wife, and it seems that she had been feeling pretty much like himself. “I don’t see,” said she, “why we ain’t as good as the best; and I think it mean of you, Mr. Trudge, not to let me have as good a gown as Mrs. Million, up there on the hill. Last Sunday she came out with a bran-new yaller silk gown, and there I was, in the next pew, in my old caliker; and I thought to myself, ’t an’t right! And then, you must know, when the minister said any pleasant and comforting scriptures, he looked very kind at Mrs. Million and her new silk gown, and when he said anything about the wicked, he looked at me and my caliker. Now, Tom, I say ’t an’t fair.” And here Mrs. Trudge buried her face in her apron.
Poor Trudge did all he could to comfort his spouse; but, alas! the peace of the cottage was gone. Tom and his wife had cast out Content and let in Envy, and Envy is a troublesome companion. He is never happy himself, and will let nobody else be happy. Envy is like a chestnut burr—all covered with prickles—and the closer you clasp it, the more it torments you. Yet this was now the inmate of Trudge’s cottage.
Well, time went on, and things grew worse rather than better. It is true that Tom and his wife were thrifty people; they had now got to be pretty well off in the world, but still they were by no means as happy as they once were; envy and ambition still goaded them on; they yearned to be rich; and, strange to say, they hated the people who were in the station they themselves desired.
They envied and hated Mrs. Million; yet they wanted very much to be like Mrs. Million.
And—who would have thought it?—the time came when they had an opportunity to gratify their desires. Tom was one day in New York, whither he had gone to buy his stock of pins, thread, and needles—when he chanced to pass by a lottery office. Here, in the window, was a picture of a gay, lightly-dressed lady, pouring out gold and silver from a long thing, shaped like a horn, but as big as a corn basket. Plash went the money upon the ground, as free as water from the town pump. A bright thought struck Tom: “it’s of no use to plod,” said he to himself; “here I’ve got fifty dollars; if I lay it out in goods, I just go and peddle them out, and that’s hard work. Besides, what’s the use of it? Though I am a little richer by means of my labors, still, compared with the Millions and the Goldboys, I shall be poor. Now, I’ve a good mind to step in and buy a ticket in the New York State Lottery, HIGHEST PRIZE FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS! Perhaps I shall draw it.”
While these thoughts passed in his mind, Tom entered the lottery office, and in a kind of frenzy, bought a ticket and paid his fifty dollars for it. He then rolled it carefully up in his pocket and set off for home—a distance of some forty miles. On his arrival here, he communicated what he had done, to his wife; and though she secretly approved of what he had done, she took him to task for it roundly; for it was dear Mrs. Trudge’s way to find fault with everything her husband did. Besides, in the present case, she wished, if the ticket should draw a blank, and the money be thus lost, to have it in her power to say to her spouse, “I told you so, Mr. Trudge!"—thereby proving her own sagacity and her husband’s want of sense. It is a pleasure to some wives, to prove that they ought to have been men, and their husbands women, and Mrs. Thomas Trudge was one of this amiable species. But, let us not be misunderstood. Mrs. Trudge wished only to degrade her husband in her own house, so as to keep the upper hand of him. Out of it, she always praised him to the skies, and she passed—except with those who knew better—as a most obedient, devoted, respectful wife.
The lottery was to draw in about two months. Tom whiled away the time as well as he could. It is strange that creatures who have got only a few years to live, should still, at least half the time, be wished to annihilate that very time which is so short. Yet so it is. Tom had given up peddling, for he was determined to be a rich man, and toil no more; besides, he had spent his money in the lottery ticket, and he had no cash to buy pins and needles with. He went to the tavern, drank gin sling, loafed with the idle fellows of the town, talked politics and scandal, and thus killed the time; but all did not make him content. Many times did he say to himself, “This idleness is a great curse; I wish I was at work; I’d rather peddle than play;” and yet, all the time, he was hoping and yearning for the day when he could be rich, and live without work.
At last the time came when the lottery was to be drawn, and Tom was
preparing to set off for New York, to be present at the important crisis. “Now, Tom,” said his wife, “mind! If you draw the highest prize, I want you to buy me a yaller silk gown, jest like Mrs. Million’s, only a great deal smarter. And do you buy me a red satin bonnet, like Mrs. Goldboy’s, only redder. And then do you buy me a new fan, with a pikter of a Wenus on one side, and a Cowpig on the other. And then if I don’t go to meetin’, and see who’ll hold their heads highest, and who’ll get the comfortin’ scripters—I’m not Bridget Trudge!”
“Well, well,” said Tom, in reply, “and suppose I don’t draw the prize?”
“Suppose you don’t draw the prize!” said the spouse, “why then you have thrown away your money like a fool, and remember what I say; if you don’t draw the prize, remember that I told you so; and if you do draw the prize, get the silk gown and the silk bonnet, and the fan.”
After a little further conversation, Tom departed on his errand. The result will be told in another chapter.
Part 2 (February 1844; pp. 69-72)
The reader will remember that Tom Trudge had set off from his home in the country, to go to New York and see to the success of his lottery ticket. He soon arrived at the great city, and found, to his vexation, that the drawing of the lottery was postponed for a week beyond the appointed time. It seemed to him hardly worth while to return to his home, but what should he do to get rid of this terrible week? When we are looking forward with impatience to a certain event, the time that stands between us and the object of desire, is considered a hateful enemy, and we set about killing it as well as we can. Some people are as anxious to kill time, as if it were a lion or a grizzly bear.
At the period we speak of, some thirty or forty years ago, a common way of killing time, or, in other words, of wasting that most precious gift of Heaven, was to go to a tap-room or tavern, and drink flip, whiskey or grog, and indulge in low and vulgar conversation. Such things are considered very silly now, but it was otherwise then. Tom could think of no other way to spend his week than to go to the Jefferson and Liberty tavern, and indulge in the amusements of the bar-room. So thither he went,
and by keeping himself in a state verging on intoxication, he continued to while away the awful seven days.
At last the appointed hour came. A firm conviction had taken possession of Tom’s mind, that he was to draw the prize of fifty thousand dollars. He did not seem to consider that there were twenty thousand tickets, and that his chance of getting it was only one in twenty thousand. To a deluded mind, such an obstacle is nothing; one chance in twenty thousand is just as good as certainty. When the drawing took place, the office was thronged with a crowd of people, most of them wretched in the extreme. There were old men, tottering upon the verge of the grave; there were haggard women, evidently starving for want of the money they had invested in the lottery; there were young persons, of both sexes, apparently sunk in vice and wasted with poverty; there were the sick and emaciated, mingled with the strong and the reckless. All anticipated with hope and expectation,—and yet all, or nearly all, were destined to go away with disappointment and sickness of heart.
Tom got close to the revolving wheel, and, with his ticket in his hand, watched the numbers as they were declared. Several times his heart beat violently, as a number came out near his own. The drawing continued for more than two hours, and his hopes began to fly, as he perceived that the prizes were nearly all out. At last his own number, which was 777, was announced, and immediately after, it appeared that it had drawn the prize of 50,000 dollars!!!
Tom Trudge was in general a pretty stable-minded man, but for a moment his eyes grew dim and his brain reeled. A strange variety of images glided in confusion before his fancy, among which, his wife, with a yaller damask gown and a fine fan, were conspicuous. Finding it necessary to have air, he left the crowd, and went into the street. For some time he could hardly tell where or what he was; but at last his faculties rallied, and, coming fully to himself, he began to consider what was to be done.
He made inquiries at the office, and found that he could cash his prize at once by paying 5000 dollars discount;—this he did, and immediately found himself in the possession of the sum of forty-five thousand dollars,—an immense sum in those days, especially for a pedlar, who had seldom before had fifty dollars in hand at a time. Though he was anxious to go home and communicate his good fortune to his wife, he did not forget her injunction. He went forthwith and purchased a magnificent changeable silk dress, of yellow and purple, upon which was a representation of a bathing goddess in figures of gold. He also purchased a fan, on one side of which was a Venus, and on the other a Cupid, and started for home. Stopping at every tavern on the road, he drank liberally, and by the time he reached his cottage, his brain was not a little muddled.
When he entered the little dwelling, his hair was dishevelled, and his eyes staring,—his whole aspect, indeed, was wild and singular. He, however, rushed up to his wife, exclaiming, “I have got it! I have got it!” He then kissed her over and over again; took up his
children and nearly stifled them with his obstreperous embraces; and at the same time, he shouted, danced and whirled round like a bedlamite. “What is it ails you, Tom? What in natur’ is the matter? Are you drunk or mad?” said his spouse. “I have got it,—there, there!” said Tom, hurling the bundle of silk at his wife’s head. “There’s the yaller damask, and the fine fan! And here’s the fifty thousand dollars!” Saying this, he took an enormous bundle of bank bills from his pocket, and giving it a whirl around his head, threw it across the room, and scattered the precious bits of paper over the floor. It is impossible to depict the astonishment of Mrs. Trudge, as she beheld the shower of bank bills, of five, ten and even twenty dollars each, now lying before her, as abundant as the very chips around the wood-pile.
For a moment the dame was bewildered, and the idea crossed her mind that it was only a dream. It was indeed so much like one of those visions that often cheat the mind in sleep, that she stood still, rubbed her forehead and looked puzzled for several seconds. But in a few moments her husband, quite out of his head, began to dance among the scattered bills, and cutting his pigeon-wings where they lay thickest, made them fly in all directions. Several of them were near the hearth, and, caught by the draught, edged closer and closer to the heap of coals, and at last bounded under the forestick and were instantly reduced to ashes. Others took a flying leap up the throat of the chimney, and circling round and round, disappeared amidst the soot and coiling smoke.
The circumstances at last recalled Mrs. Trudge to her senses. She had by degrees unravelled the tangled skein of events and made out the truth. She saw that her husband had actually drawn a great prize; that, obedient to her command, he had bought the damask and the fan, and that, between tippling and delight, his wits had gone wool-gathering for a season. She saw the necessity of immediate exertion to save the bank bills, now scattered like worthless rags upon the floor, her bewitched husband still rigadooning in their midst, and grinding them beneath his feet, or making them circle about upon the eddies of air that his brisk motions created. Like a hawk pouncing upon a brood of chickens, she now stooped upon the cash, and gathered it by handfuls into her apron, which she held up by the two corners. Seeing what she was about, her addled lord came after her and chased her round the room. But Mrs. Trudge took good care to keep out of his way, and soon succeeded in picking up the greater part of the bills. At last her husband, being completely exhausted, fell upon the floor. His good wife then dragged him to bed, and leaving him there in a sound sleep, she completed her work of securing the money.
Trudge slept long and heavy, but at last he awoke. He seemed sadly bewildered, and put his hand to his forehead in a manner which showed that he not only had a pain in his head, but was troubled in mind. At last he turned to his wife, and demanded, “Where is the money?”
“Money?” said his better half,—
“Money! what man—money! money, indeed! I think I should like some money myself. ’Tis a pretty little business indeed: you go away and leave your tender wife and suffering children for ten long days; you then come back drunk as a fiddler, cut up all sorts of cantraps about the house, almost murther your family, and then, after you have come to your senses, you ask, as innocent as a cat licking cream, ‘where is the money?’ Where is the money? say I. Zounds, where is my yaller damask and the French fan? Come, speak, man! Or is it all a dream? Did n’t you draw the big prize, after all? Oh, Tom, Tom! I told you so; I told you how it would be; I knew you had thrown away your money, and here we are, a poor innocent family, reduced to ruin, poverty and starvation!!” Upon this, the dame held her apron to her eyes, and the tears, real tears, bright as crystals, chased each other down her rosy cheeks.
Poor Tom Trudge! There he sat on the bedside, the very image of botheration. For the life of him, he could not tell whether he had really drawn the prize, or only been visited by a bewildering vision. At last, however, the mists that had hung over his mind began to clear away; the truth came more and more distinct to his mind, and finally he recollected the drawing of the lottery, his obtaining the forty-five thousand dollars, his buying the damask and the fan—his journey homeward, and the meeting with his wife. Just as he had fully brought to recollection the whole affair, he looked up, and discovered a half malicious smile shining through the tears of his spouse. She now burst into a hearty laugh, and brought forth the bundle of bank notes, nicely done up, and Tom Trudge and his wife were the happiest couple in the universe.
Part 3 (March 1844; pp. 109-111)
Thomas Trudge was now one of the richest men in the town of Buckwheat, in which he resided, and it was not long before his good fortune was knwon over the whole place. A great many people came to see him and talk with him about it, and hear the whole story from beginning to end. they desired to see the money, and make sure that it was real, good money; for many of them could hardly believe that a poor pedlar should draw a prize of fifty thousand dollars. A great many persons also came to see Mr. and Mrs. Trudge, who had never been in their humble cottage before; and Mrs. Trudge was not slow to observe that the people now called her husband Mr. Trudge, instead of Tom, and herself, Mrs. Trudge, instead of Bridget.
The town of Buckwheat consisted of about two thousand inhabitants, who were chiefly devoted to agriculture. It derived its name from its producing a large quantity of that particular kind of grain which is famous for feeding poultry and making flap-jacks. It consisted of two villages, which bore the titles of Up-town and Down-town. In the former portion, there dwelt several families of some wealth, who had removed thither from the city of New York, during the war of the revolution, to escape from the dangers and anxieties of that period. These families, having similar tastes and habits of life, naturally associated together, and were hence called the aristocracy.
The leader of fashion among this portion of the community was a dashing widow, by the name of Mrs. Million. She was rich, and so long as she was flattered and permitted to have her own way, she was hospitable and good- natured; but if thwarted, or if her superiority in all respects were called into question, she was haughty, ill-natured, and vindictive.
While such was the state of things at Up-town, there was also a natural association formed by the people in that portion of the place called Down- town. “Birds of a feather flock together,” says the adave; and, accordingly, the Down-towners, being drawn together by similar tastes, habits and condition, associated with each other, and were called the democracy. For a long time, these names were not in use in buckwheat, and the people, whatever inequality in their condition might exist, got along very peaceably together. But when they began to call each other names, such as aristocrat and democrat, a feeling of hostility grew up among them, and it was not long before bad blood was excited between them. Hitherto, all things had gone on peaceably; every person was at liberty to do as he pleased, provided there was nothing improper in his conduct; but now that these ugly names had got in among them, there was a great deal of scandal and back-biting abroad. It really seemed as if the introduction of these two words—aristocracy and democracy—into the good old town of Buckwheat, did as much to break up the peace and harmony of the people, as if two evil spirits had taken up their residence there, and had exerted
themselves to set the inhabitants by the ears.
Thomas Trudge was naturally a fair-minded, honest, good-hearted fellow, and, left to himself, would never have made any trouble in the world. But his partner, Bridget, was restless, meddlesome, and ambitious. She was always talking about the Up-towners, and nothing happened there, but it was the occasion of some sour and satirical reflection upon her part. She kept an especial watch upon Mrs. Million, particularly at the meeting on Sunday. Her dress was then thoroughly scanned, and if she ventured to come out with a new bonnet, gown, frill, or even ribbon, the amiable Bridget was sure to exclaim somewhat in this manner: “Shame upon that Mrs. Million, to be perking herself up in church with her new finery, to attract the attention of the whole congregation! What is Mrs. Million, that she presumes to catch all the best of the minister’s discourse—the corn and the kernel—and leave nothing but the husks for such people as we are. Oh, it’s because she’s rich, I suppose! But the tables will be turned, by and by. ‘Every dog must have his day!’ Dives had his, and Mrs. Million is having hers; but there’s another world to settle these accounts in!”
It must not be supposed that Bridget Trudge was a bad woman, even though she indulged in such spiteful words; her bark was a great deal worse than her bite. But still, people who get into the habit of talking harshly, will ere long feel and act harshly—and so it was with Bridget. She had been so accustomed to indulge her love of scandal towards the Up-towners, that she seemed to hate them; and as to Mrs. Million, she felt as if she owed her some particular grudge; and this was the more curious, from the fact that Mrs. Million had always treated Bridget with kindness, and had made her various presents of considerable value. Nothing, however, in the conduct of the Up-towners, could satisfy Mrs. Trudge. Their behavior, in her view, was all wrong. She accused them of being extravagant, worldly- minded, dissipated, and, what was ten times worse than all, aristocratic.
Entertaining such views as these, it may seem strange that the first idea of Mrs. Trudge, after she had settled it in her mind that they were rich, was, that she would become one of the Up-towners, join the aristocracy, and out-dash Mrs. Million. Her first great manoeuvre was developed on the second Sunday after the drawing of the prize. Her husband went in his usual dress, but Mrs. Trudge appeared in all the glory of her new changeable damask, decorated with figures in gold. It was made in the height of the fashion; and as she flaunted up the broad aisle, you might have fancied that she was going to a masquerade. An enormous red satin bonnet, with huge bunches of ribbons, red shoes and a tall fan—though it was now November—served to aid the conceit. The little Trudges followed their mother, fantastically attired, while Tom, the pedlar, in his rusty, brown suit, brought up the rear.
The Scottish poet, Burns, has said a great many good things; and among these is the following couplet:
“Oh! would kind heaven the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us.”
Mrs. Trudge supposed that on the present occasion she was exciting the admiration of all Buckwheat; that she was provoking the envy of the proud Mrs. Million, and that she was conquering the respect of the Up-towners. The text happened to be the story of Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, and was used by the preacher to show the compensations which are to be made to the humble Christian in a future world, for the sorrows, suffering and poverty of this. Mrs. Trudge made a curious, though flattering application of the text to herself. “Yes, yes,” said she, internally, “the poor shall be comforted—those who have suffered shall have the reward. I have endured poverty and suffering, and now I am taken to Abraham’s bosom.” she enjoyed great satisfaction in this view of the case, and, for the first time in her life, fondly fancied that the preacher intended to bestow upon her the comforts of Scripture.
It is not our purpose to detail the various steps by which the Trudges changed their position in society. It will be sufficient to say that they left their humble cottage and entered a new house, which they caused to be built upon the very top of Up-town! This was constructed in the most approved style; and the grounds around were duly decorated with gravel-walks, avenues, flower-beds, shrubbery, and long straight rows of lombardy poplars. Here, they gave tea-parties and suppers; and in the course of two years rejoiced in considering themselves as making a part of that aristocracy which Mrs. Trudge had before regarded as so hateful.
Part 4 (April 1844; pp. 139-143)
We might have supposed that the Trudges, being now rich, and having attained what seemed the summit of Mrs. Trudge’s ambition, were perfectly happy. But this was far from being the case. They lived in a fine house, made a great dash, were admitted into what is called good society, and fancied that they were exciting the envy and admiration of the whole town of Buckwheat. But with all this show of bliss, there were many drawbacks to their felicity.
In the first place, as to Tom,—or Squire Trudge, as we must now called him,—he was a simple-minded, sensible fellow, and but for the example and influence of his spouse, he had borne his prosperity without intoxication. Indeed, as it was, he behaved with considerable propriety. He spoke to his neighbors, as he met them, much as before, and when he could get from under his wife’s supervision, he would stop and chat familiarly with old intimates. He demeaned himself modestly, and seemed little elated with his good fortune. He was kind-hearted, and ready to befriend the needy; but still, he had many sources of vexation.
His restless helpmate insisted that he should dress “as became his station;” and accordingly he was compelled to wear tight shoes, which pinched his corns terribly, and kept him in an almost constant state of martyrdom. When he walked abroad, he put his foot to the ground as gingerly as if he were step-
ping on eggs. He was required to have his coat in the fashion, which trussed him up about the arms, and made those limbs stand out upon each side of him, like a couple of pump-handles. His neckcloth, of pure white, (as was the fashion then,) was lined with what was called a pudding; and to please his dame, who had a nice taste in these matters, he tied it so tight that it threw the blood into his face, and gave his ruddy complexion a liver-colored hue.
Nor was this all poor Tom had to endure. He was constantly “hatchelled” as to his manners, somewhat after the following fashion: “My dear Trudge,” his wife would say to him, “do now try to be a gentleman. Pray wipe your nose with your pocket handkerchief, and not with your fingers! Turn your toes out, man, or people will never forget that you was once a pedler. Hold your head up, step large, swing your arms bravely, and seem to be somebody. In short, pray do be genteel.”
“Well, well, wife,” Trudge would reply; “I’ll do as well as I can.” The dialogue would usually go on pretty much as follow.
Mrs. T. Do as well as you can! and is that all you have to say for yourself? Oh, dear, dear! I’m afraid I shall never make nothin’ on you. One can’t make a silk purse of a sow’s ear, as Shakspeare says. Oh, Tom, Tom, I wish you had a little more jinnysyquaw!
Tom. Jinnysyquaw! What the mischief’s that?
Mrs. T. Just as if you did n’t know what jinnysyquaw was! Oh, my dear Tom! you are as ignorant as the whipping-post. Not know what jinnysyquaw is! Oh, dear, dear! This comes of not knowing French. Why, jinnysyquaw is a—a—a kind of something-or-other—that—nobody knows nothing about—that is to say—it is a kind of can’t-tell-ish-ness. For instance, if a person has a very genteel air, they say, “He’s got the true jinnysyquaw.” All the people who have been to Paris talk a great deal about it; and I’ll tell you as a secret, Tom—Dick Flint whispered in my ear, the other night at Mrs. Million’s party, and he told me I had the real French jinnysyquaw! Now, what do you think of that?
Tom. What do I think of it! I think he’s an impudent jackanapes, and you are a—!
Mrs. T. Hold your tongue, Tom—hold your tongue! Dick Flint’s the height of fashion: everybody is running after him. He’s been abroad, sir—yes, he’s been abroad, sir! That’s more than you can say for yourself. So, hold your tongue, and listen to me. Try to be a gentleman, as becomes your station. Hold up your head, carry a stiff upper lip, and keep up an important air. There should always be about a person of consequence, something which says, “Clear the road, for I am coming.”
Tom. I suppose you mean the jinnysyquaw.
This last observation was made by Tom with a quizzical look, as if he was poking fun at his spouse. But she took it in good part, for she was too well satisfied with herself to suspect that she could be the object of ridicule.
We have thus given some idea of certain vexations which marred the happiness of Squire Trudge. Nor was this
the only evil of his lot. Though he had a sort of impression that he was so rich as to justify any degree of extravagance, yet he was sometimes disturbed by the sums of money which his ambitious wife lavished upon her follies.
Nor was that lady wholly without her annoyances, however she might seem to be floating upon a sea of bliss. She could not but feel the superiority of Mrs. Million, who was a woman of talent and education, and the only mode she had to supply her own deficiency, was to excel her rival in dash and splendor. Accordingly, she had fine horses and a splendid carriage. She gave parties, at which there was always an abundant feast. She appeared in the most costly dresses, and carried every fashion to its height.
While she affected to despise and hate Mrs. Million, she imitated her in everything. At last, she became so complete a caricature of that fashionable dame, that everybody discovered the ridiculous resemblance. Mrs. Million, far from being flattered by seeing such a grotesque reflection of herself, was infinitely more vexed at the involuntary homage thus rendered by Bridget, than she could have been by her envy and spleen.
A new fancy now crept into the brain of our heroine. Mrs. Million had just got a piano from New York, and, as it was the only one in the town, and a great rarity in those days, it excited quite a sensation among the fashionable circles of Buckwheat. Perceiving this, and determined to be behind in nothing, Bridget resolved to get one, and a much more splendid one than Mrs. Million’s. Accordingly, the following conversation ensued between herself and Tom the next morning.
Mrs. T. My dear Mr. Trudge, I wish you had been at Mrs. Million’s last night. She’s got the beautifullest pianny in her parlor that you ever see. Now I want you to send to New York for one for me, and I want to have the beautifullest that can be got.
Tom. What’s the use of sending to New York? Can’t you get one here?
Mrs. T. Get one here, indeed! not a bit of it. Beside, nothing will do but one all the way from New York.
Tom. Well, well! I’ll see about it.
Mrs. T. Well, let it be here on Thursday, for my sorry—that’s a good man!
Here the conversation ended, and, on the appointed day, a huge tub, set on wheels, and painted green, was brought from New York, and trundled into the front entry of the Trudges. The tub contained a splendid group of peonies, in full bloom.
“What have you got there?” said Mrs. Trudge to her husband, who was standing by. “Why, the pianny, to be sure,” says Tom. “The pianny!” said his wife, throwing up her hands; “the pianny! What a ridiculous blunder! Oh, Tom, Tom, you’ll break my heart! You’ve no more hedication than a heath-hen. I axed you to get me a pianny, and you have got me a pianny.”
Here Mrs. Trudge sobbed aloud, and it was a long time before poor Mr. Trudge could be made to understand the mistake he had made. He was at last compelled to order the piano, even though it cost four hundred dollars, and he considered the peace with his wife,
which he thus purchased, to have been cheaply obtained.
Another vexation which Mrs. Trudge experienced, arose from her servants. Sometimes she was familiar, sometimes imperious and tyrannical. She therefore secured neither the respect nor affection of those around her. She was accordingly accustomed to indulge in the fashionable outcry against her “help.”
An incident which throws some light upon this topic, it may be worth while to relate. Mrs. Million had recently introduced bells into her house, and Bridget followed suit. The servants conceived a dislike to being thus summoned into the presence of their mistress. It struck them not only as an innovation, but as a rude and harsh mode of calling them. Mrs. Trudge’s manner was not calculated to allay this aversion, for while the bells were being put up, she seemed to assume a loftier tone than usual.
When they were at last arranged, she attired herself in a splendid satin dress, took a bottle of hartshorn, reclined luxuriously upon a sofa, and then pulled the bell-rope, which was near. She waited a little, but no one came at the summons. She pulled again, but there was no answer. At last, she gave the cord an imperious twitch, which nearly sundered the wires. In a few seconds, the chambermaid popped her head in at the door, and said spitefully to her mistress, “You may pull and pull till you are gray, Miss Trudge; the more you ring, the more I won’t come.”
Such were some of the vexations which disturbed the brilliant career of our heroine. There were others, also, and even those of a more serious character. But she still pressed forward in her course of ambition. She seemed indeed to be always in a flurry, and to keep everybody around her in a constant state of uneasy excitement. She was indeed never happy for a moment, and seemed ever to be tormented with the desire of chasing a phantom she could never obtain. If, indeed, she had any enjoyments, they consisted only of the fleeting pleasures which characterize little minds—the idea that she was exciting the envy and admiration of those around her.
Thus affairs proceeded for several years, but, at last, a crisis came. The extravagance of the family not only exhausted the whole of Trudge’s fortune, but ran him in debt. His creditors came upon him, and as he could not meet their demands, he was declared a bankrupt. The event found Mrs. Trudge upon the full tide of fashionable dissipation. She was struck like a bird in mid flight. She could not, and would not at first, believe the melancholy tidings. It was, alas! too true, and she was compelled to submit to her cruel fate.
With scarcely a shilling in his pocket, and only a few necessary articles of furniture which his creditors had allowed him, poor Tom set out with his wife and children to return to the little brown dwelling, which he had occupied before his drawing the prize. They were obliged to go on foot, and as Bridget proceeded down the nicely-gravelled walk, thus taking leave of her splendid mansion forever, she felt a keener pang than
can be well uttered in words. She was indeed the very image of despair. Her pride was humbled—her prospects blighted—her heart broken. Tom led the way, and though he felt for his wife and children, there was a remarkable aspect of cheerfulness in his countenance.
The party at length arrived at their dwelling. It seemed so desolate and bare, that for two or three days Bridget seemed utterly crushed. Tom treated her with great tenderness, and, at the same time, kept up a cheerful air. In a few days, Bridget’s good sense and energy of character prevailed. She entered upon her duties, and before a fortnight had passed, she seemed not only resigned to her fate, but absolutely content. Tom whistled, and danced, and said that he was ten times happier than when he lived in the great house. He could now wear an easy old coat, and shoes that did not pinch his corns. Beside, he had been weary of the idle life he had led, and he now entered upon his old trade as a pedler, with pleasure and alacrity. The children soon became accustomed to the change, and, in less than three months after their downfall, Tom and his wife both agreed that they were happier in their brown house than they ever had been in the big mansion.
“Style and splendor may do for those who are brought up to it,” said Tom; “but, after all, the comfort and content of the cottage are much better. Don’t you think so, Bridget?”
“Yes, Tom, I do indeed,” said the spouse.
Tom. It’s almost equal to the jinnysyquaw, an’t it, Bridget?
Mrs. T. Hold your tongue, Tom!