Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1835–1860
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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. VI–VIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 1835–1860
 
A Good Feed, duly Defended
By Henry William Herbert (1807–1858)
 
[My Shooting Box. By Frank Forester. 1846.]

JUST as Forester stood up, not a little nettled, Timothy threw the door open, and said,
  1
  “T’ dinner’s upon t’ teable, please sur.”  2
  And thereupon Frank’s face relaxed into a mild and placid smile, and drawing Tom’s arm under his own,  3
  “Allow me the honor,” he said, “Mistress Draw, to hand you in to dinner.”  4
  “No you don’t, little wax-skin—no you don’t—not through that door no how, we’d git stuck there, boy,—and they’d niver pull us out; and we’d starve likely with the smell o’ the dinner in our noses, and the champagne a bustin’ under our eyes out o’ the very bottles to be drinked, and us not there to drink it. No, no, we’ll run no resks now.”  5
  And with the words they passed into the dining-room, arranged as on the previous evening except that, for two covers, four were now laid on the white damask cloth, and that a pair of tall silver wine-coolers occupied the centre of the table with the long necks of hock and champagne flasks protruding.  6
  At the left of each guest stood a pint decanter of delicate straw-colored sherry: and at his right, four glasses, a long stalked beaker of old-fashioned Venice crystal, a green German hock-glass embossed with grapes and vine leaves, a thin capacious sherry-glass with a curled lip so slender that it almost bent as you drank from it, and a slim-shanked shallow goblet for Bourdeaux or Burgundy.  7
  There was but one comestible, however, on the table, a deep silver tureen, with a most savory and game-like odor exuding from the chinks of its rich cover.  8
  “I would have given you some raw natives to begin with,” said Harry, “knowing how much Tom likes them, but we can’t get the crustaceous bivalves up hither with distinguished success, until the frost sets in.”  9
  “I’m right glad on’t, by the Etarnal!” exclaimed Tom, “nasty, cold, chillin’, watery trash! jist blowin’ out your innards for no good, afore you git to the grist o’ dinner—what kind o’ soup’s that, Timothy?”  10
  “A soup of my own invention”—answered Harry—“and the best soup in the world me judice.—Strong venison soup, made as we make hare soup at home—a good rich stock to begin with, about ten pounds of the lean from the haunch brayed down into the pottage, about a dozen cloves and a pint of port, and, to conclude, the scrag of the neck cut into bits two inches square, done brown in a covered stew-pan, and thrown in with a few forced-meat balls when the soup is ready. You can add, if you please, a squeeze of a lemon and a dash of cayenne, which I think improve it. It is piping hot; and not bad I think.”  11
  “I have tasted something of the kind in the Highlands, at Blair of Athole,” said Frank Forester.  12
  “I have not,” replied Harry. “The Scotch venison soup is made clear, and though a capital thing, I like this purée better.”  13
  “So do I, Harry,” said Fred Heneage—“and I should think by the gusto with which you speak of it, that you not only invented, but made it.”  14
  “You’d think just about right, then,” answered Tom, as he thrust out his plate for a second ladleful. “He and I did make the first bowl of it, as iver was made. And it tuk us a week—yes, a fortnight I guess, before we got it jest right. I will say that for Harry! the darned critter is about as good at bringing game up right on the table as he is at bringing them down right in the field.”  15
  “Yes! and for that very thing I have been assailed,” said Harry laughing, “as lacking the true spirit of a sportsman, as not enjoying the thing in its high ennobling spirit, as not a pure worshipper in heart and intellectual love of the divine Artemis, but a mere sensualist and glutton, making my belly a god, and degrading my good gun into a mere tool for the slaves of Epicurus!”  16
  “Treason! high treason! name the rash man! hold him up bodily to our indignation!”  17
  “First let us drink!—That pale sherry is delicate and very dry. Will you have champagne, Tom?—No—very well—Here is a health then to C. E., of the ‘Buffalo Patriot.’”  18
  “C. E.!—“Who the devil is C. E.?”—cried all three in a breath.  19
  “Alias J. B.”  20
  “And who then is J. B.?”  21
  “The man wot stabbed me in the tenderest part—which he, I suppose, would say is my abdomen.”  22
  “Are you in earnest, Harry?”  23
  “I am gravely in earnest, when I say that he taxed me seriously, though sportively, with all that I have stated.—He said that, in my admiration of good things, in dwelling on the melting richness of a wood-duck, or the spicy game flavor of a grouse, in preferring a silver plate whereon to eat my venison to an earthen trencher, in carrying out a bottle of champagne and cooling it in a fresh spring for my luncheon, instead of trusting to execrable rye or apple whiskey, I prove myself degenerate and no true votary of the gentle woodcraft. He is afraid that I cannot rough it!”  24
  “Is he, indeed?—Poor devil!”  25
  “He don’t know much then, no how, that chap!” answered Tom, as he went largely into the barbacued perch, which had taken the place of the pottage—“Leastways he don’t know much if he thinks as a chap carn’t rough it becase he knows how to eat and drink, when there’s no need of roughing it. I’ve seen fellows as niver had seen nauthen fit to eat nor drink in their lives, turn up their darned nasty noses at a good country dinner in a country tavern, where a raal right down gentleman, as had fed allus on the fat of the land, could dine pleasantly. Give me a raal gentleman, one as sleeps soft, and eats high, and drinks highest kind, to stand roughing it—and more sense to C. E., next time he warnts to teach his grandmother.”  26
  “How do you like this fish?”  27
  “Capital—capital!”  28
  “Well, all its excellence, except that it is firm, lies in the cookery.—It is insipid enough and tasteless, unless barbecued.”  29
  “Then you were wise to barbecue it.”  30
  “And how should I have learned to barbecue it, if I had not thought about such things? No, no, boys—I despise a man very heartily who cannot dine just as happily upon a bit of salt pork and a biscuit, and perhaps an onion, aye! and enjoy it as well, washed down with a taste of whiskey qualified by the mountain brook—or washed down with a swallow of the brook unqualified—as he would enjoy canvas-back and venison with champagne and Bordeaux;—who cannot bivouac as blithely and sleep as soundly under the starlit canopy of heaven as under damask hangings—when there is cause for dining upon pork, and for bivouacking. But there is one thing, boys, that I despise a plaguy sight more—and that is a thick-headed fool who likes salt pork as well as canvas-back and turtle;—who does not see any difference between an ill-cooked dish swimming in rancid butter and a chef d’œuvre of Carême or Ude, rich with its own pure gravy. And yet more than the thick-headed fool, do I abhor the pig-headed fool, who thinks it brave forsooth and manly and heroical withal, and philosophical, to affect a carelessness, which does not belong to him, and to drink cider sperrits when he can drink Sillery sec of the first growth! And that being said, open that champagne, Timothy.”  31
  “So much for C. E.?—” inquired Forester.  32
  “No, no!” exclaimed Harry, eagerly—“I deny any such sequitur as that; C. E. is a right good fellow—or was, at least, when I knew him—It is a weary while ago since he supped with me in New York, the very night before he left it—never, I believe, to return—at least since then I have never seen him—and, many a warm heart has grown cold, and many a brown head gray in the interim. But when I knew C. E. he would never drink bad liquor when he could come by good—and right well did he know the difference—and by the way, while vituperating me for my gourmandize, he shows that he is tarred a little with the same stick. He abuses me for saying that the wood-duck is as good a bird as flies, except the canvas-back, asserting that the blue-winged teal is better.”  33
  “Out upon him!” exclaimed Forester—“the blue-winged teal is fishy, nine times out of ten.”  34
  “Aye! Frank—but he is speaking of the teal on the great lakes; and I dare say he is right. It is to the fact that he is the only duck seen on the seaboard, who eschews salt water and salt sedges that the summer duck—for that is his proper name—owes his preëminence over all the other wild fowl of this region.—Now, as the blue-winged teal, or Garganey, is in the same predicament on the lakes, I think it very questionable whether in that country he may not be as good, nay better, than my favorite.”  35
  “Are you in earnest? Do you think that the diet of ducks makes so much difference in their quality?” asked Heneage.  36
  “So much? It makes all the difference.—What renders the canvas-back of the waters of the Chesapeake the very best bird that flies; while here, in Long Island Sound, or on the Jersey shore, he is, at the best, but a fourth-rate duck?—the wild celery, which he eats there, and which he cannot get here, for his life.”  37
  “A roast leg of mutton?—by no means a bad thing, Harry”—said Fred Heneage—“when it is old enough and well roasted.”  38
  “This is six years old,” answered Archer—“Black-faced, Scotch, mountain, of my own importation, my own feeding, and my own killing. It has been hanging three weeks, and, by the way it cuts, I believe it is in prime order—done to a turn I can see that it is. Will you have some?”  39
  “Will a fish swim?—Where is the currant jelly?”  40
  “On the sideboard. I don’t consider currant jelly orthodox with mutton, which is by far too good a thing to be obliged to pass itself for what it is not.”  41
  “I agree with you,” said Frank;—“I hate anything that is like something else.”  42
  “Of course—all good judges do. That puts me in mind of what Washington Irving once told me, that he never ate clams, by any chance, because he was quite sure that they would be oysters if they could!”  43
  “Excellent! excellent!” said Fred and Forester, both in a voice; whereupon Tom added:  44
  “They carn’t come it though—stewed clams is not briled iseters!”  45
  “No more than mosquitoes are lobsters, which was John Randolph’s sole objection to the insects.”  46
  “And do you really prohibit currant jelly with roast mutton?”  47
  “I don’t prohibit anything—but I don’t eat it, and I think it bad taste to do so. Venison I think the only thing that is improved by it. Canvas-back ducks I think it ruins. Nor should I think C. E.’s plum jelly with grouse one whit better. The sharpness of currant jelly is very suitable to the excessive fat of English park-fed venison; but with any lean meat I think it needless, to say the best. There is but one sauce for any kind of gallinaceous game, when roasted, whether his name be grouse, partridge, pheasant, quail, or wild turkey.”  48
  “Right, Harry, and that is bread sauce.”  49
  “And that is bread sauce; made of the crumb of a very light French roll, stewed in cream and passed through a tamis, one small white onion may be boiled in it, but must be taken out before it is served up to table; a lump of fresh butter as big as a walnut may be added, and a very little black pepper. Let it be thick and hot, and nothing else is needed; unless, indeed, you like a few fried crumbs, done very crisp and brown.”  50
  “Open that other flask of champagne, Timothy—Tom’s glass is empty, and he begins to look angry. Will you take wine with me?” said Heneage, who had hit Tom’s feelings to a hair.  51
  “In course, I will”—replied Tom joyously, “when Harry gits a talking about his darned stews and fixins, he niver recollects that a body will git dry.”  52
  “Pass it round, Timothy,” said Harry—“that’s not a bad move of old Tom’s by any means. I believe I was riding one of my hobbies a little hard. But it provokes me to see the good things which are destroyed in this country by bad cookery; and it provokes me yet worse to hear hypocrites and fools talk as if it were wrong for the creature to enjoy the good things designed for his use by a good Creator.”  53
  “Here come the ruffed grouse, larded and boiled, for boiling which Fred so abused me this morning.”  54
  “He won’t abuse you, when he has once tasted them,” said Forester. “It is the best way of cooking them.”  55
  “Well—yes—they bees kind o’ dry meat roasted; but then I don’t find no great faults with the dryness—specially when one’s got jist this wine to rench his mouth with arter.”  56
  “They are good—with this celery sauce especially.”  57
  “As is bread sauce to roast, so is celery sauce to boiled game—Q-e-d.”  58
  “There is a soupçon of onion in this also, is there not?”  59
  “Just enough to swear by—do you think it too much?”  60
  “I did not say a taste, I said a soupçon—are you answered?”  61
  “There ain’t no Souchong in it no how—nor no Hyson, nother. He’ll be a swearin’ it’s Java coffee next”—said Tom, waxing again somewhat wrothy.  62
  “He is thirsty again,” said Frank—“what shall it be? I say hock after this boiled white meat.”  63
  “Right, Frank, for a thousand!” said Harry, “and after the woodcock, which Tim is bringing in, we’ll broach a flask of Burgundy.—Hock with your white game, Burgundy with your brown! But hold, hold! Timothy, Mr. Draw will not touch that hock—it’s too thin and cold for his palate.”  64
  “Rot-gut!”—replied Tom—“None o’ your hocks nor your clarets for me—there ain’t no good things made in France except champagne wine and old Otard brandy.”  65
  “Well, which of the two will you have, Tom?”  66
  “That ’are champagne ’s good enough for the likes of me.”  67
  “Oh! don’t be modest, pray. It will hurt you!”  68
  “What this here wine?—not what I’ve drinked on it, no how—I could drink all of a dozen bottles of it, without its hurtin’ me a mite.”  69
  The woodcock followed, were discussed, and pronounced perfect; they were diluted with a flask of Nuits Richelieu, so exquisitely rich and fruity, and of so absolute a bouquet, that even the hostility of fat Tom toward all French wines was drowned in the goblet, thrice the full of which, mantling to the brim, he quaffed in quick succession.  70
  The Stilton cheese, red herring, and caviare, which succeeded, again moved his ire, and were denounced as stinkin’ trash fit for no one to eat but a darned greedy Englishman; but the bumper of port again mollified him, and he said that if they ate them cussed nasty things jist to make the wine taste the better for the contrast, he didn’t see no sense in that, for it was mazin’ nice without no nastiness afore it.  71
  The devilled biscuits he approved mightily, as creating a wholesome drought, which he applied himself to assuage by emptying three bottles of pale sherry to his own cheek, while the three young men were content with one double magnum of Chateau Latour. But when he emptied the third bottle he was as cool and collected as if he had not tasted a single drop, and was half disposed to run rusty at being summoned into the library to take a cup of coffee and an old cheroot—but here again his wrath was once more assuaged by the curaçoa, of which he drank off half a tumbler, and then professed himself ready for a quiet rubber, while Tim was gittin’ supper.  72
 
 
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