The Worlds Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906. Vols. IV: American
By Artemus Ward (Charles Farrar Browne) (18341867)
THE SHAKERS is the strangest religious sex I ever met. Id hearn tell of em and Id see em, with their broad-brimd hats and long-wastid coats; but Id never cum into immejit contack with em and Id sot em down as lackin intelleck, as Id never seen em to my Showleastways, if they cum they was disgised in white peples close, so I didnt know em.
I was toilin threw the mud, when in the dim vister of the futer I obsarved the gleams of a taller candle. Tiein a hornets nest to my off hosss tail to kinder encourage him, I soon reached the place. I knockt at the door, which it was opened unto me by a tall, slick-faced, solum-lookin individooal, who turned out to be a Elder.
A solum female, lookin somewhat like a last years beanpole stuck into a long meal bag, cum in and axed me was I athurst and did I hunger? to which I urbanely anserd a few. She went orf and I endevered to open a conversashun with the old man.
Jest then the female in the meal bag stuck her hed into the room and statid that refreshments awaited the weary traveler, and I sed if it was vittles she ment the weary traveler was agreeable, and I follered her into the next room.
I sot down to the table and the female in the meal bag poured out sum tea. She sed nothin, and for five minits the only live thing in that room was a old wooden clock, which tickt in a subdood and bashful manner in the corner. This dethly stillness made me oneasy, and I determined to talk to the female or bust. So sez I, Marriage is agin your rules, I bleeve, marm?
Its kinder singler, sez I, puttin on my most sweetest look and speakin in a winnin voice, that so fair a made as thou never got hitched to some likely feller. [N. B.She was upards of 40 and homely as a stump fence, but I thawt Id tickil her.]
Here were shot out from the sinful world. Here all is peas. Here we air brothers and sisters. We dont marry and consekently we hav no domestic difficulties. Husbans dont abooze their wiveswives dont worrit their husbans. Theres no children here to worrit us. Nothin to worrit us here. No wicked matrimony here. Would thou like to be a Shaker?
I had now histed in as big a load of pervishuns as I could carry comfortable, and, leanin back in my cheer, commenst pickin my teeth with a fork. The female went out, leavin me all alone with the clock. I hadnt sot thar long before the Elder poked his hed in at the door. Youre a man of sin! he sed, and groaned and went away.
Direckly thar cum in two young Shakeresses, as putty and slick-lookin gals as I ever met. It is troo they was dressed in meal bags like the old one Id met previsly, and their shiny, silky har was hid from sight by long white caps, sich as I spose female Josts wear; but their eyes sparkled like diminds, their cheeks was like roses, and they was charmin enuff to make a man throw stuns at his granmother if they axed him to. They commenst clearin away the dishes, castin shy glances at me all the time. I got excited. I forgot Betsy Jane in my rapter, and sez I, My pretty dears, how air you?
They was full of fun. I seed that at fust, only they was a leetle skeery. I tawt em Puss in the corner and sich like plase, and we had a nice time, keepin quiet of course so the old man shouldnt hear. When we broke up, sez I, My pretty dears, ear I go you have no objections, hav you, to a innersent kiss at partin?
I went upstairs to bed. I spose Id been snoozin half a hour when I was woke up by a noise at the door. I sot up in bed, leanin on my elbers and rubbin my eyes, and I saw the follerin picter: The Elder stood in the doorway, with a taller candle in his hand. He hadnt no wearin appeerel on except his night close, which fluttered in the breeze like a Seseshun flag. He sed, Youre a man of sin! then groaned and went away.
I went to sleep agin, and drempt of runnin orf with the pretty little Shakeresses, mounted on my Californy Bar. I thawt the Bar insisted on steerin strate for my dooryard in Baldinsville, and that Betsy Jane cum out and giv us a warm recepshun with a panful of bilin water. I was woke up arly by the Elder. He sed refreshments was reddy for me downstairs. Then sayin I was a man of sin, he went groanin away.
As I was goin threw the entry to the room where the vittles was, I cum across the Elder and the old female Id met the night before, and what dye spose they was up to? Huggin and kissin like young lovers in their gushingist state. Sez I, My Shaker frends, I reckon youd better suspend the rules, and git marrid!
The Shakers axed me to go to their meetin, as they was to hav sarvices that mornin, so I put on a clean biled rag and went. The meetin house was as neat as a pin. The floor was white as chalk and smooth as glass. The Shakers was all on hand, in clean weskits and meal bags, ranged on the floor like millingtery companies, the mails on one side of the room and the females on tother. They commenst clappin their hands and singin and dancin. They danced kinder slow at fust, but as they got warmed up they shaved down it very brisk, I tell you. Elder Uriah, in particler, exhiberted a right smart chance of spryness in his legs, considerin his time of life, and as he cum a double shuffle near where I sot I rewarded him with a approvin smile and said, Hunky boy! Go it, my gay and festiv cuss.
The Sperret, as they called it, then moved a short, fat Shaker to say a few remarks. He sed they was Shakers, and all was ekal. They was the purest and seleckest peple on the yearth. Other peple was sinful as they could be, but Shakers was all right. Shakers was all goin kerslap to the Promist Land, and nobody want goin to stand at the gate to bar em out; if they did theyd git run over.
Why, this jumpin up and singin? This long weskit biznis, and this anty-matrimony idee? My frends, you air neat and tidy. Your lands is flowin with milk and honey. Your brooms is fine, and your apple sass is honest. When a man buys a kag of apple sass of you he dont find a grate many shavins under a few layers of sassa little Game Im sorry to say sum of my New Englan ancesters used to practiss. Your garding seed is fine, and if I should sow em on the rock of Gibralter probly I should raise a good mess of garding sass. You air honest in your dealins. You air quiet and dont distarb nobody. For all this I givs you credit. But your religion is small pertaters, I must say. You mope away your lives here in single retchidness, and as you air all by yourselves nothing ever conflicts with your pecooler idees, except when Human Nater busts out among you, as I understan she sumtimes do. [I give Uriah a sly wink here, which made the old feller squirm like a speared Eel.] You wear long weskits and long faces, and lead a gloomy life indeed. No childrens prattle is ever hearn around your harthstunsyou air in a dreary fog all the time, and you treat the jolly sunshine of life as tho it was a thief, drivin it from your doors by them weskits, and meal bags, and pecooler noshuns of yourn. The gals among you, sum of which air as slick pieces of caliker as I ever sot eyes on, air syin to place their heds agin weskits which kiver honest, manly harts, while you old heds fool yerselves with the idee that they air fulfillin their mishun here, and air contented. Here you air, all pend up by yerselves talkin about the sins of a world you dont know nothin of. Meanwhile said world continners to resolve round on her own axeltree onct in every 24 hours, subjeck to the Constitution of the United States, and is a very plesant place of residence. Its a unnatral, onreasonable, and dismal life youre leadin here. So it strikes me. My Shaker friends, I now bid you a welcome adoo. You hav treated me exceedin well. Thank you kindly, one and all.