Изображения страниц

If I am to have any reputation for brevity I must now close these remarks. I remember a lesson in brevity I once received in a barber's shop. An Irishman came in, and the unsteady gait with which he approached the chair showed that he had been imbibing of the produce of the still run by North Carolina Moonshiners. He wanted his hair cut, and while the barber was getting him ready, went off into a drunken sleep. His head got bobbing from one side to the other, and at length the barber, in making a snip, cut off the lower part of his ear. The barber jumped about and howled, and a crowd of neighbors rushed in. Finally the demonstration became so great that it began to attract the attention of the man in the chair, and he opened one eye and said, "Wh-wh-at's the matther wid yez? Good Lord!” said the barber, “ I've cut off the whole lower part of your ear.” “Have yez? Ah, thin, go on wid yer bizness—it was too long, anyhow!” [Laughter.] If I don't close this speech, some one of the company will be inclined to remark that it has been too long, anyhow. (Cheers and laughter.]


(Speech of Horace Porter at the seventy-seventh annual dinner of the New England Society in the City of New York, December 22, 1882. Josiah M. Fiske, the President, occupied the chair and called upon General Porter to respond to the toast : “ The Embarkation of the Pilgrims.")

GENTLEMEN :-Last summer two pilgrims might have been seen embarking from the port of New York to visit the land from which the Pilgrim Fathers once embarked. One was the speaker who just sat down [Chauncey M. Depew], and the other the speaker who has just arisen. I do not know why we chose that particular time. Perhaps Mr. Choate, with his usual disregard of the more accurate bounds of veracity, would have you believe that we selected that time because it was a season when there was likely to be a general vacation from dinners here. (Laughter.] Our hopes of pleasure abroad had not risen to any dizzy height. We did not expect that the land which so discriminating a band as the Pilgrim Fathers had deliberately abandoned, and preferred New England thereto, could be a very engaging country. We expected to feel at home there upon the general principle that the Yankees never appear so much at home as when they are visiting other people. [Laughter.]

I have noticed that Americans have a desire to go to Europe, and I have observed, especially, that those who have certain ambitions with regard to public life think that they ought to cross the ocean; that crossing the water will add to their public reputations, particularly when they think how it added to the reputation of George Washington even crossing the Delaware River. [Laughter and applause.] The process is very simple. You get aboard a steamer, and when you get out of sight of land you suddenly realize that the ship has taken up seriously its corkscrew career through the sea. Certain gastronomic uncertainties follow. You are sailing under the British flag. You always knew that “ Britannia ruled the waves;” but the only trouble with her now is that she don't appear to rule them straight. (Laughter.] Then you lean up against the rail; soon you begin to look about as much discouraged as a Brooklyn Alderman in contempt of court. Your more experienced and sympathizing friends tell you that it will soon pass over, and it does. You even try to beguile your misery with pleasant recollections of Shakespeare. The only line that seems to come to your memory is the advice of Lady Macbeth"To bed, to bed!”—and when you are tucked away in your berth and the ship is rolling at its worst, your more advisory friends look in upon you, and they give you plenty of that economical advice that was given to Joseph's brother, not to “fall out by the way.” [Laughter.]

For several days you find your stomach is about in the condition of the tariff question in the present Congress—likely to come up any minute. This is particularly hard upon those who had been brought up in the army, whose previous experience in this direction had been confined entirely to throwing up earthworks. (Laughter.] You begin to realize how naval officers sometimes have even gone so far as to throw up their commissions. If Mr. Choate had seen Mr. Depew and myself under these circumstances he would not have made those disparaging remarks which he uttered tonight about the engorgement of our stomachs. If he had turned those stomachs wrong side out and gazed upon their inner walls through that opera-glass with which he has been looking so intently lately upon Mrs. Langtry, he would have found that there was not even the undigested corner of a carbuncular potato to stop the pyloric orifice; he would have found upon those inner walls not a morsel of those things which perish with using. [Laughter.]

But Mr. Choate must have his joke. He is a professional lawyer, and I have frequently observed that lawyers' jokes are like an undertaker's griefs—strictly professional. You begin now to sympathize with everybody that ever went to sea. You think of the Pilgrim Fathers during the tempestuous voyage in the Mayflower. You reflect how fully their throats must have been occupied, and you can see how they originated the practice of speaking through their noses. [Great laughter and applause.] Why, you will get so nauseated before the trip is over at the very sight of the white caps that you can't look at the heads of the French nurses in Paris without feeling seasick. There are the usual “ characters " about. There is the customary foreign spinster of uncertain age that has been visiting here, who regales you with stories of how in New York she had twelve men at her feet. Subsequent inquiry proves that they were chiropodists. [Laughter.]

And then you approach Ireland. You have had enough of the ocean wave, and you think you will stop there. I have no doubt everybody present, after hearing from the lips the distinguished chaplain on my right as to the character of the men who come from that country, will hereafter always want to stop there. And when you land at Queenstown you are taken for an American suspect. They think you are going to join the Fenian army. They look at you as if you intended to go forth from that ship as the dove went forth from the ark, in search of some green thing. You assure them that the only manner in which you can be compared with that dove is in the general peacefulness of your intentions. Then you go wandering around by the shores of the Lakes of Killarney and the Gap of Dunloe, that spot where the Irishman worked all day for the agent of an absentee landlord on the promise of getting a glass of grog. At night the agent brought out the grog to him, and the Irishman tasted it, and he said to the agent, “ Which did you put in first, the whiskey or the water?" Oh," said he, “the whiskey." "Ah, ha! Well, maybe I'll come to it by and by.” [Laughter.] You look around upon the army, the constabulary, the police, and you begin to think that Ireland is a good deal like our own city of Troy, where there are two police forces on duty—that it is governed a great deal

. You can't help thinking of the philosophical remark made by that learned Chinese statesman, Chin Lan Pin, when he was here at the time Dennis Kearney was having an unpleasantness with the Orientals. A man said to him, "Your people will have to get out of here; the Irish carry too much religion around to associate with Pagans. “Yes,” said Chin Lan Pin, "we have determined to go. Our own country is too overcrowded now, we can't go there, and I think we'll go to Ireland.” Said the man, “To Ireland? You will be jumping out of the frying-pan into the fire." Said Chin Lan Pin, “ I have travelled in your country and all around a good deal, and I have come to the conclusion that nowadays Ireland is about the only country that is not governed by the Irish.” [Applause and laughter.]

Then you go to Scotland. You want to learn from personal observation whether the allegation is true that the Scotch are a people who are given to keeping the Sabbath day—and everything else they can lay their hands on. (Laughter.] You have heard that it is a musical country, and you immediately find that it is. You hardly land there

you hear the bag-pipes. You hear that disheartening music, and you sit down and weep. You know that there is only one other instrument in the world that will produce such strains, and that is a steam piano on a Mississippi steamboat when the engineer is drunk. And in this musical country they tell you in song about the “ Lassies Comin' Through the Rye;" but they never tell you about the rye that goes through the “laddies.” And they will tell you in song about

bodies meeting bodies coming through the rye,” and you tell them that the practice is entirely un-American; that in America bodies usually are impressed with the solemnity of the occasion and the general propriety of the thing, and lie quiet until the arrival of the coroner, but that the cor


oners are disputing so much in regard to their jurisdiction, and so many delays occur in issuing burial permits, that, altogether, they are making the process so tedious and disagreeable that nowadays in America hardly anybody cares to die. You tell them this in all seriousness, and you will see from their expression that they receive it in the same spirit. (Laughter.]

Then you go to England. You have seen her colonies forming a belt around the circle of the earth, on which the sun never sets. And now you have laid eyes on the mothercountry, on which it appears the sun never rises. Then you begin to compare legislative bodies, Parliament and Congress. You find that in Parliament the members sit with their hats on and cough, while in Congress the members sit with their hats off and spit. I believe that no international tribunal of competent jurisdiction has yet determined which nation has the advantage over the other in these little legislative amenities. And, as you cross the English Channel, the last thing you see is the English soldier with his blue trousers and red coat, and the first you see on landing in France is the French soldier with his red trousers and blue coat, and you come to the conclusion that if you turn an English soldier upside down he is, uniformly speaking, a Frenchman. [Laughter.]

We could not tarry long in France; it was the ambition of my travelling companion to go to Holland, and upon his arrival there the boyish antics that were performed by my travelling companion in disporting himself upon the ancestral ground were one of the most touching and playful sights ever witnessed in the open air. [Laughter.] Nobody knows Mr. Depew who has not seen him among the Dutch. He wanted especially to go to Holland, because he knew the Pilgrims had gone from there. They did not start immediately from England to come here. Before taking their leap across the ocean they stepped back on to Holland to get a good ready. [Laughter.] It is a country where water mingles with everything except gin-a country that has been so effectually diked by the natives and damned by tourists. [Laughter.] There is one peculiar and especial advantage that you can enjoy in that country in going out to a banquet like this. It is that rare and peculiar privilege

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »