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It would have been strange if these Pecks had lived for a year within a mile of the residence of my estimable friend, without patching, or, as I may more correctly say, scratching an acquaintance with him. There certainly was no chemical affinity between the parties; but the oil and the vinegar met, if they did not coalesce. The Pecks were related to the family of Lawyer Bull, in whose black-eyed daughter Betsey, Mr. Viellecour had always shown an interest from her infancy; either because something about her put him in mind of others whom he had loved, or because it gave him pleasure to watch the developement of grace and proportion, even in a bouncing rustic beauty. This, by the way, together with a new year's gift to her of a gilt Telemaque and Bliss's TalisMAN, was enough to lead some wise women to conjecture aloud, that he meant to make bouncing Betsey Bull his wife, and to pronounce him an old fool for thinking of so disproportionate a match. It was, also, very convenient for these Pecks to borrow seeds, salads, sprouts and shoots from Mr. Viellecour; and Plutarch was anxious to prevail on him to teach him French; but this task, the old gentleman, with all his good nature and urbanity, absolutely and unequivocally refused to undertake. In return, the Pecks always stopt to enquire
after his health; and Plutarch would save him the trouble of going to the post-office for his newspapers, which he took home first to read himself; and, after having poured forth their contents on the county, in the “Cataract of Freedom,” he would then return them to their owner, mangled by his editorial shears, and looking like some inexplicable pattern for a lady's nocturnal head-gear,—always, however, relating to their owner the remarkable passages which he had cut out.
It chanced that in the autumn of 182-, Mr. Viellecour was attacked by a fit of the rheumatism, from having injudiciously exposed himself to the night air, in his anxiety for the health of a favourite myrtle, which was menaced by the indications of an unexpected black frost. This fact was soon known to the inquisitive and lengthy Abishag, who had a specific for that infliction, equally infallible for man and horse. She had tried it on both; as well as on a certain other animal, which a Kentucky editor of Linneus would probably classify as a little of both, with a mixture of the buffalo. I allude to a certain nondescript Canada-Gallicised Irishman, who had been at board with Mrs. Peck for some weeks. And here it becomes necessary to mention such authentic particulars of his life and habits, as have hitherto transpired.
He belongs to a genus of which every one knows more or less, who has seen or heard anything of the phenomena, which, for the edification of monster-hunters and monster-gazers, have arisen, culminated, and set, or more often “ shot madly from their spheres,” in the horizon of New-York society, for the last twenty years. Of this genus there are several species, though the nature of each kind soon passeth away, and
goeth out” of fashion, and of remembrance. | Yet, in their brief career, they have charmed female hearts, and turned wise brokers' heads. Such is the power of foreign tongues and foreign titles, foreign jewels and foreign jokes, foreign fashions and foreign fiddling. There is your heroic humbug, as your Waterloo general; your scientific humbug, such as you may meet at the suppers of the Literary and Philosophical Society, or the soirées of some Mæcenas; your patriotic humbug, who has “ left his country for his country's good,” and such you may see everywhere. There is your
medical and your
musical humbug; your ecclesiastical humbug, your pedagogical humbug, your proselyte humbug, and your new-community humbug; your phrenological humbug, your cuisinier humbug, your travelled humbug, and your savage humbug. Last, though not least, there is the real, pure, natural,
unlicked, unlettered, unequivocal, unadorned, unadulterated, unsophisticated, unaccommodated humbug; or, as Lear says, “ the real thing itself—a poor, bare, forked animal,” who, without education, knowledge, or
--without tongues or travels, jewels or juggles, fashions or falsetto, grace or grammar, will make his way by the mere dint of sheer and monstrous lying -lying which has neither the merit of invention or consistency; and is so essentially grotesque, that it seems easier to believe it at once, than to believe that it has ever been believed.
But to return to Terence Mountjoy. He was an individual of the species last described. When he came to old Mrs. Peck to take board, he had on a Canada foraging cap, and a blue military frock, which had once been well befrogged and embroidered, fastened with hooks and eyes, with a well-worn and greasy standing collar, in front of which was displayed a dirty ruffle, with a diamond breast-pin glittering among its soiled implications. His neck was disguised in a black Wellington stock. His nether man was invested in a pair of buckskin breeches; to which integuments he was so partial, that he never changed them during his residence at the widow's. This might have arisen from his fondness for displaying the sturdy outline of his limbs;
or, as he said himself, from the military habits he had acquired in the Swiss cavalry. But Miss Peck, whose curiosity, as well as her duty as a blanchisseuse, led her occasionally to overhaul his wardrobe, could never discover that there was any other garment provided for the protection of his inferior person. She also remarked some peculiarities about the marks of his linen, which resembled erasures and various readings. This he satisfactorily explained to Abishag, by stating that he had been obliged to rip out the crests and armorial bearings of his family, in order to preserve his incognito. She also observed nothing in the shape of a waistcoat among his finery; a deficiency, which, if it existed, was supplied, or concealed, by his tightbodied frock. I have said enough about Terence's apparel, but may add, that he occasionally exchanged his fur-cap for a chapeau-bras, which looked as if it had seen hard duty, in the service of some Hessian general.
This prepossessing wight informed Mrs. Peck and Co. on his arrival, that he was a nobleman incog. which he begged them not to mention, as it was a secret. He said he was a grand cross of the holy iron Roman canon of Austria; in proof of which he exhibited a dirty orange tawny colored ribband with a whitish border, to which