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From The Rise and Fall of the Mustache, and other “Hawk-eyetems,” by Robert J. Burdette, illustrated by R. W. Wallis; Burlington Publishing Company, Burlington, Iowa; 1877; pp. 96-98.




IT was only a few years ago the New York Journal of Information published the statement that a man in New Hampshire, who had been unable to speak for five years, when to sleep, one night, with a quid of tobacco in his mouth, and awoke the next morning with his voice perfectly strong and smooth and steady. Old Mr. Jarvis, who lives out on Vine Street, is sorely afflicted with an impediment in his speech, and often says he would give a hundred dollars if he could only “t - t - t - t - taw - taw - talk f - f - f - f - fast enough t - t - to t - t - tell a gug - gug - gug - grocer what he w - w - wants bub - bub - bub - before he gug - gug - gets it measured out.” He takes the Journal, and had taken it for twenty-three years, and he firmly believed every thing he ever read in it; Sylvanus Cobb’s stories, Mr. Parton’s Lives of Eminent Americans, the answers of correspondents — Mr. Jarvis had taken them all in and believed every word. He thought that probably this quid-of-tobacco treatment might help his voice a little, and he resolved to give it a good trial any how. The first trouble was that he didn’t chew, and Mrs. Jarvis would never allow a bit of tobacco about the house. But he begged a big “chaw” of navy, and when he went to bed he tucked it snugly away in his cheek, and prepared to sleep in hope. He had his misgivings, and they grew in number and strength as the quid began to assert itself, and be sociable, and assimilate itself with its surroundings. Mrs. Jarvis asked him if he had fastened the front gate.


“Um,” said Mr. Jarvis, meaning that he had.

“And are you sure you locked the front door?” queried his restless spouse.

“Um,” replied Mr. Jarvis, meaning that he had not, for he was by this time in no condition to open his mouth.

“Hey?” she replied.

“Um,” persisted Mr. Jarvis.

“What?” she demanded.

“Um - m - m! protested Mr. Jarvis.

“Well,” said she, “you can’t make me believe you are that near asleep this soon.”

“Um - m - m!” said Mr. Jarvis; meaning that he would get up and bounce her out of that front door if she didn’t hold her clack.

Presently she sat up in bed. Sniff, sniff! “John Jarvis,” she exclaimed, “if I don’t smell tobacco in this house, I’m a sinful woman. Don’t you smell it?”

“’M,” replied Mr. Jarvis; which by interpretation is, that he didn’t smell any thing and was going to sleep.

“It’s in this very room,” she persisted, excitedly.

“Um,” said Mr. Jarvis, meaning that she must be crazy.

“It’s under the bed!” she screamed. “There’s a burglar under the bed! Oh, help! fire! police! John Jarvis ! ! !” And she smote Mr. Jarvis a furious pelt in the stomach to waken him up.

It was a terrific thump, and its first effect was to knock all the atmosphere out of Mr. Jarvis’s lungs so far that he could only recover his breath by a violent gasp, which first carried the quid of tobacco and all the nicotine preparation that it had been steadily distilling down his throat, and was immediately succeeded by a tremendous cough, as he struggled to rise up in bed, which shut 98 the quid squarely into the eye of the shrieking Mrs. Jarvis.

“Murder! murder!” she screamed, “I’m stabbed! I’m stabbed!”

And John Jarvis choked and coughed and spit and coughed and choked and clutched Mrs. Jarvis by the throat and tried to choke off her noise, but he grew so “ill” that he couldn’t hold his grip, and Mrs. Jarvis, the moment her throat was released from his trembling pressure, rose from the half-strangled gurgles to the sublimity of double-edged screams, and made Rome howl with melody. And the neighbors broke into the house and found a bed-room that looked and smelled like jury-room or a street car, with the sickest man they ever saw lying with his head over the side of the bed, groaning at the rate of a mile a minute, and the worst frightened woman since the flood sitting up beside him, screaming faster than he groaned, while one of her eyes was plastered up with a black quid of tobacco. And that is the way Mr. Jarvis came to stop his Journal. He denounces it as the most infamous, mendacious, pestilent sheet that ever disgraced American journalism.


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