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From The World’s Wit and Humor, Volume I, American; The Review of Reviews Company; New York; 1906; pp. 262-273.


American Wit and Humor

William Tappan Thompson (1812-1882)

A Proposal

Pineville, December 27 ——.

To Mr. Thompson: — Dear Sir — Crismus is over, and the thing is done did! You know I told you in my last letter I was gwine to bring Miss Mary up to the chalk on Crismus. Well, I done it, slick as a whistle, though it come mighty nigh bein a serious bisness. But I’ll tell you all about the whole circumstance.

The fact is, I’s made my mind up more’n twenty times to jest go and come right out with the whole bisness; but whenever I got whar she was, and whenever she looked at me with her witchin eyes, and kind o’ blushed at me, I always felt sort o’ skeered and fainty, and all what I made up to tell her was forgot, so I couldn’t think of it to save me. But you’s a married man, Mr. Thompson, so I couldn’t tell you nothin’ about popin the question, as they call it. It’s a mighty grate favour to ax of a pretty gall, and to people what aint used to it, it goes monstrous hard, don’t it? They say widders don’t mind it no more’n nothin. But I’m makin a transgression, as the preacher ses.

Crismus eve I put on my new suit, and shaved my face as slick as a smoothin iron, and after tea went over to old Miss Stallinses. As soon as I went into the parlor whar they was all settin round the fire, Miss Carline and Miss Kesiah both laughed right out.

“There! there!” ses they, “I told you so. I know’d it would be Joseph.


“What’s I done, Miss Carline?” ses I.

“You come under little sister’s chicken bone, and I do believe she know’d you was comin when she put it over the dore.”

“No I didn’t — I didn’t no such thing, now,” ses Miss Mary, and her face blushed red all over.

“Oh, you needn’t deny it,” ses Miss Kesiah, “you belong to Joseph now, jest as sure as ther’s any charm in chicken bones.”

I know’d that was a first rate chance to say something, but the dear little creeter looked so sorry and kep blushin so, I couldn’t say nothin zactly to the pint! so I tuck a chair and reached up and tuck down the bone and put it in my pocket.

“What are you gwine to do with that old chicken bone now, Majer?” ses Miss Mary.

“I’m gwine to keep it as long as I live,” ses I, “as a Crismus present from the handsomest gall in Georgia.”

When I sed that, she blushed worse and worse.

“Aint you shamed, Majer?” ses she.

“Now you ought to give her a Crismus gift, Joseph, to keep all her life,” sed Miss Carline.

“Ah,” ses old Miss Stallins, “when I was a gall we used to hang up our stockins —— ”

“Why, mother!” ses all of ’em, “to say stockins right before ——

Then I felt a little streaked too, cause they was all blushin as hard as they could.

“Highty-tity!” ses the old lady — “what monstrous ’finement to be shore! I’d like to know what harm ther is in stockins. People now-a-days is gittin so mealy-mouthed they can’t call nothin by its right name, and I don’t see as they’s any better than the old-time people was. When I was a gall like you, child, I use to hang up my stockins and git ’em full of presents.”


The galls kep laughin and blushin.

“Never mind,” ses Miss Mary, “Majer’s got to give me a Crismus gift — won’t you, Majer?”

“Oh, yes,” ses I, “you know I promised you one.”

“But I didn’t mean that,” ses she.

“I’ve got one for you, what I want you to keep all your life, but it would take a two-bushel bag to hold it,” ses I.

“Oh, that’s the kind,” ses she.

“But will you promise to keep it as long as you live?” ses I.

“Certainly I will, Majer.”

“ — Monstrous ’finement now-a-days — old people don’t know nothing about perliteness,” said old Miss Stallins, jest gwine to sleep with her nittin in her lap.

“Now you hear that, Miss Carline,” ses I. “She ses she’ll keep it all her life.”

“Yes, I will,” ses Miss Mary — “but what is it?”

“Never mind,” ses I, “you hang up a bag big enough to hold it and you’ll find out what it is, when you see it in the mornin.”

Miss Carline winked at Miss Kesiah, and then whispered to her — then they both laughed and looked at me as mischievous as they could. They ’spicioned something.

“You’ll be shore to give it to me now, if I hang up a bag,” ses Miss Mary.

“And promise to keep it,” ses I.

“Well, I will, cause I know that you wouldn’t give me nothin that wasn’t worth keepin.”

They all agreed they would hang up a bag for me to put Miss Mary’s Crismus present it, on the back porch, and about ten o’clock I told ’em good evenin and went home.

I sot up till midnight, and when they was all gone to bed I went softly into the back gate, and went up to the porch, and thar, shore enough, was a great big meal-bag hangin to the 265 jice. It was monstrous unhandy to git to it, but I was termined not to back out. So I sot some cahirs on top of a bench and got hold of the rope and let myself down into the bag, but jest as I was gittin in, it swung agin the chairs, and down they went with a terrible racket; but nobody didn’t wake up but Miss Stallinses old cur dog, and here he come rippin and tearin through the yard like rath, and round and round he went tryin to find what was the matter. I scrooch’d down in the bag and didn’t breathe louder nor a kitten, for fear he’d find me out, and after a while he quit barkin.

The wind begun to blow bominable cold, and the old bag kep turnin round and swingin so it made me sea-sick as the mischief. I was afraid to move for fear the rope would break and let me fall, and thar I sot with my teeth rattlin like I had a ager. It seemed like it would never come daylight, and I do believe if I didn’t love Miss Mary so powerful I would froze to death; for my heart was the only spot that felt warm, and it didn’t beat more’n two licks a minit, only when I thought how she would be supprised in the mornin, and then it went in a canter. Bimeby the cussed old dog come up on the porch and began to smell about the bag, and then he barked like he thought he’d treed something. “Bow! wow! wow!” ses he. Then he’d smell agin, and try to git up to the bag. “Git out!” ses I, very low, for fear the galls mought hear me. “Bow! wow!” ses he. “Be gone! you bominable fool,” ses I, and I felt all over in spots, for I spected every minit he’d nip me, and what made it worse, I didn’t know whar abouts he’d take hold. “Bow! wow! wow!” Then I tried coaxin — “Come here, good feller,” ses I, and whistled a little to him, but it wasn’t no use. Thar he stood and kep up his everlastin whinin and barkin all night. I couldn’t tell when daylight was breakin, only by the chickens crowin, and I was monstrous glad to hear ’em, for if I’d had 266 to stay thar one hour more, I don’t believe I’d ever got out of that bag alive.

Old Miss Stallins come out fust, and as soon as she seed the bag, ses she,

“What upon yeath has Joseph went and put in that bag for Mary? I’ll lay it’s a yearlin or some live animal, or Bruin wouldn’t bark at it so.”

She went in to call the galls, and I sot thar, shiverin all over so I couldn’t hardly speak if I tried to — but I didn’t say nothin. Bimeby they all come running out on the porch.

“My goodness! what is it?” ses Miss Mary.

“Oh, it’s alive!” ses Miss Kesiah, “I seed it move.”

“Call Cato, and make him cut the rope,” ses Miss Carline, “and lets see what it is. Come here, Cato, and git this bag down.”

“Don’t hurt it for the world,” ses Miss Mary.

Cato untied the rope that was round the jice, and let the bag down easy on the floor, and I tumbled out all covered with corn meal, from head to foot.

“Goodness gracious!” ses Miss Mary, “if it aint the Majer himself!”

“Yes,” ses I, “and you know you promised to keep my Crismus present as long as you lived.”

The galls laughed themselves almost to death, and went to brushin off the meal as fast as they could, sayin they was gwine to hang that bag up every Crismus till they got husbands too. Miss Mary — bless her bright eyes — she blushed as beautiful as a morning-glory, and sed she’d stick to her word. She was right out of bed, and her hair wasn’t komed, and her dress wasn’t fix’d at all, but the way she looked pretty was real distractin. I do believe if I was froze stiff, one look at her sweet face, as she stood thar lookin down to the floor with her 267 roguish eyes, and her bright curls fallin all over her snowy neck, would have fotched me too. I tell you what, it was worth hangin in a meal bag from one Crismus to another to feel as happy as I have ever sense.

I went home after we had the laugh out, and sot by the fire till I got thawed. In the forenoon all the Stallinses come over to our house and we had one of the greatest Crismus dinners that ever was seed in Georgia, and I don’t believe a happier company ever sot down to the same table. Old Miss Stallins and mother settled the match, and talked over every thing that ever happened in ther families, and laughed at me and Mary, and cried about ther dead husbands, cause they wasn’t alive to see their children married.

It’s all settled now, ’cept we haint sot the weddin day. I’d like to have it all over at once, but young galls always like to be engaged a while, you know, so I spose I must wait a month or so. Mary (she ses I mustn’t call her Miss Mary now) has been a good deal of trouble and botheration to me; but if you could see her you wouldn’t think I ought to grudge a little sufferin to git sich a sweet little wife.

You must come to the weddin if you possibly kin. I’ll let you know when. No more from

Your friend, till death,

Jos. Jones.

N. B. I like to forgot to tell you about cousin Pete. He got snapt on egnog when he heard of my ingagement, and he’s been as meller as hoss-apple ever sense.

— “Major Jones’s Courtship.


Practical Jokes

Pineville, February 2.

To Mr. Thompson: — Dear Sir — Ever sense I writ my last letter to you, things is gone on jest as straight as a shingle, and the only thing what troubles me is, I’m fraid it’s all too good to last. It’s always been the way with me ever sense I can remember whenever I’m the happiest some cussed thing seems to turn up jest to upset my calculations; and now, though the day is sot for the weddin, and the Stallinses is getting every thing ready as fast as they can, I wouldn’t be surprised much if some bominable thing was to happen, some yeathquake or something, jest to bust it all up agin, though I should hate it monstrous.

Old Miss Stallins read that piece in the Miscellany about the mistake in parson Miller’s figers, and I do blieve that she’s as glad about it as if she was shore she would live a whole thousand years more herself. She ses she hain’t got no objections to the weddin now, for me and Mary’ll have plenty of time to make a fortin for our children and rais ’em up as they ought to be. She ses she always wondered how Mr. Miller could cifer the thing out so straight, to the very day, without a single mistake, but now he’s made sich a terrible blunder of a whole thousand years, she ses she knows he aint no smarter nor other people, if he was raised at the North.

It’s really surprisin how mazin poplar it does make a body to be engaged to be married to a butiful young lady. Sense the thing’s leaked out, everybody’s my pertickeler friend, and I can’t meet nobody wherever I go, but what wants to congratilate me on my good fortin, ’cept cousin Pete and two or three other 269 fellers, who look sort o’ like they wanted to laugh and couldn’t. Almost every night Mary and me is invited to a party. Tother night we went to one to old Squire Rogerses, whar I got my dander up a little the worst I’ve had it for some time. I don’t blieve you have ever hearn of jest sich a dingd fool trick as they played on me. Ther was a good many young people thar, and as the Squire don’t allow dancin, they all played games and tricks, and sich foolishness to pass away the time, which to my notion is a bominable sight worse than dancin.

Cousin Pete was thar splurgin about in the biggest, with his dandy-cut trowsers and big whiskers, and tried to take the shine off everybody else, jest as he always does. Well, bimeby he ses,

“Spose we play brother Bob — let’s play brother Bob.”

“Yes, let’s play that,” ses all of ’em, “won’t you be brother Bob, Majer?”

“Who’s brother Bob?” ses I — for I didn’t know nothin about it, and that’s the way I come to be so bominably tuck in.

“I’ll tell you,” ses he, “you and somebody else must set down in the chairs and be blindfolded, and the rest must all walk round and round you, and keep tappin you on the head with something till you guess who bob’d you.”

“But how bob me?” ses I.

“Why,” ses he, when any one taps you, you must say, ‘Brother, I’m bob’d!’ and then they’ll ax, ‘Who bob’d you?’ and if you guess the right one, then they must take your place and be bob’d till they guess who bob’d ’em. If you’ll be blindfolded I will,” ses he, “jest for fun.”

“Well,” ses I, “anything for fun.”

Cousin Pete sot out two chairs into the middle of the room, back to back, and we sot down, and they tied a hankercher round my eyes tite as the mischief, so I couldn’t see to guess no 270 more’n if I had no eyes at all. Then the boys nd galls commenced walkin round us in a circle all giglin and laughin.

I hadn’t sot thar no time before cawhalux! some one tuck me right side of the head with a dratted big book. The fire flew out o’ my eyes in big live coals, and I like to keeled over out of the chair. I felt my blood risin like a mill-tail, but they all laughed mightily at the fun, and after a while ses I,

“Brother, I’m bob’d.”

“Who bob’d you?” ses they.

I guessed the biggest fisted feller in the room, but it wasn’t him.

“No, no!” they all hollered, and round they wint agin a-rompin and laughin and enjoyin the fun all to themselves while my head was singin like a teakettle.

The next minit, spang went the book agin cousin Pete’s head.

“Whew!” ses he, “brother, I’m bob’d?”

“Who bob’d you?” ses they.

But cousin Pete didn’t guess right nother, and the fust thing I know’d, whang they tuck me agin.

I was dredful anxious to guess right, but it was no use, I missed it every time, and so did cousin Pete, and the harder they hit the louder they laughed. One time they hit me a great deal softlier than the rest.

“Brother, I’m bob’d!” ses I.

“Who bob’d you?” ses they.

“Miss Mary Stallins,” ses I.

“No, I never,” ses she, and they all roared out worse than ever.

I begun to git monstrous tired of sich fun, which seemed so much like the boys and the frogs in the spellin book — for if it was fun to them it was death to me — and I don’t’ know what I would done if Mary hadn’t come up and untied the hankercher.


“Let’s play something else,” ses she, and her face was as red as fire, and she looked sort o’ mad out of her eyes.

I seed ther was something wrong in a minit.

Well, they all went on playin “pawns,” and “’pon honor,” and “Here we go round the gooseberry bush,” and “Oh, sister Feby, how merry we be,” and sich tom fooleries till they played all they knowed, and while they was playin Mary told me all about the trick cousin Pete played on me.

It was the most oudacious take in I ever heard of. Do you think the cuss didn’t set right down behind me, and never blindfolded himself at all, and hit me every lick himself, now and then hittin his knee with the book, to make me blieve he was bob’d too! My head was a-buzzin with the licks when she told me how he done me, and I do blieve if it hadn’t been for her I’d gin cousin Pete sich a lickin right thar in that room as he never had before in his born days. Blazes! but I was mad at fust. But Mary begged me not to raise no fuss about it, now it was all over, and she would fix him for his smartness. I hadn’t no sort of a idee how she gwine to do it, but I know’d she was a match for cousin Pete any time, so I jest let her go ahed.

Well, she tuck the bominable fool off to one side and whispered to him like she was gwine to let him into a grate secret. She told him about a new play what she learned down to Macon when she was at the college, called “Interduction to the King and Queen,” what she sed was a grate deal funnier than “Brother Bob,” and got him to help to git ’em all to play it.

After she and him made it all up, cousin Pete put out three chairs close together in a row for a throne, and Mary she put a sheet over ’em to make ’em look a little grand. Bill Byers was to be King and Mary was to be Queen.

“Now, you must all come in tother room,” ses cousin Pete, 272 “only them what belongs to the court, and then you must come in and be interduced, one at a time.”

“I aint gwine,” ses Tom Stallins, “for ther’s some trick in it.”

“No ther ain’t,” ses cousin Pete, “I’ll give you my word ther ain’t no trick — only a little fun.

“Well,” ses I, “I’s had fun enough for one night.”

Mary looked at me and kind o’ winked, and ses she, “You’re one of the court you know, Majer; but jest go out till the court is sumonsed before the throne.”

Well, we all went out, and bimeby Bill Byers called out the names of all the lords and ladys what belonged to the court, and we all went in and tuck chairs on both sides of the throne.

Cousin Pete was to be the fust one interduced, and Sam Rogers was to be the usher, the feller what inderduced the company. Well, bimebly the door opened and in come cousin Pete, bowin and scrapin, and twistin and rigglein and puttin on more dandy airs than a French dancin master — he beat Crotchett all to smash. The King sot on one side of the throne and the Queen on tother, leavin room in the middle for some one else. Sam was so full of laugh at cousin Pete’s anticks that he couldn’t hardly speak.

“Doctor Peter Jones,” ses he, “I interduce you to ther Majestys the King and Queen.”

Cousin Pete scraped about a while and then drapt on one knee, right before ’em.

“Rise, gallant knight,” ses Bill Byers, “rise, we dub you knight of the royal bath.”

Cousin Pete got up and bowed and scraped a few more times, and went to set down between ’em, but they ris up jest as he went to set down, and the fust thing he knowed, kerslosh he 273 went, rite into a big tub mor’n half full of cold water, with nothing but his head and heels stickin out.

He tried to kiss Mary as he was takin his seat, and if you could jest seed him as he went into that tub with his arms reached out to her, and his mouth sot for a kiss, I do believe you’d laughed more’n you ever did before in your life. The fellers was all so ’spicious that some trick was gwine to be played, that they left the dore open, and when the thing tuck place they all run in shoutin and laughin like they would bust ther sides.

Pete got out as quick as he could, and I never seed a feller so wilted down in all my life. He was mad as a hornet, and sed it was a d—d mean trick to sarve ennybody so, specially in cold weather. And he went right off home by himself to dry.

Mary made the niggers take out the middle chair what as covered by the sheet, and put the tub of water in its place when we was all in tother room. Pete didn’t have no suspicion that the trick was gwine to turn out that way. He thought the queen was gwine to sentence every feller what didn’t kiss her as he sot down, to do something that would make fun for the rest, and he was jest gwine to open the game.

I felt perfectly satisfied after that, and I don’t think cousin Pete will be quite so fond of funny tricks the next time. . . .

Your friend, till death,

Jos. Jones.

— “Major Jones’s Courtship.


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