Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. VIVIII: Literature of the Republic, Part III., 18351860
Mr. Sparrowgrasss Country Pleasures
By Frederick Swartwout Cozzens (18181869)
[Born in New York, N. Y., 1818. Died in Brooklyn, N. Y., 1869. The Sparrowgrass Papers. 1856.]
I HAVE bought me a bugle. A bugle is a good thing to have in the country. The man of whom I bought it said it had an easy draught, so that a child could fill it. He asked me if I would try it. I told him I would prefer not, as my wind was not in order; but that when I got out in my boat, the instrument should be critically tested. When I reached home, I could scarcely finish my tea on account of my bugle. The bugle was a secret. I meant to surprise Mrs. Sparrowgrass. Play, I could not, but I would row off in the river, and blow a prolonged note softly; increasing it until it thrilled across the night like the dolorous trumpet of Roland, at the rout of Roncevalles. I slipped away, took the hidden instrument from the bushes, handled the sculls, and soon put five hundred feet of brine between me and the cottage. Then I unwrapped the brown paper, and lifted the copper clarion to my lips. I blew until I thought my head would burst, and could not raise a toot. I drew a long breath, expanded my lungs to the utmost, and blew my eyes almost out of their sockets, but nothing came of it, saving a harsh, brassy note, within the metallic labyrinth. Then I attempted the persuasive, and finally cajoled a faint rhythmic sound from it that would have been inaudible at pistol-shot distance. But this was encouragingI had gotten the hang of it. Little by little I succeeded, and at last articulated a melancholy B flat, whereupon I looked over at the cottage. It was not therethe boat had drifted down stream, two miles at least; so I had to tug up against the tide until I nearly reached home, when I took the precaution of dropping an anchor to windward, and once more exalted my horn. Obstinacy is a Sparrowgrassic virtue, My upper-lip, under the tuition of the mouth-piece, had puffed out into the worst kind of a blister, yet still I persevered. I mastered three notes of the gamut, and then pulled for the front of the cottage. Now, said I, Mrs. Sparrowgrass, look out for an unexpected serenade.
I answered, that the relative merit of stringed and wind instruments had never been exactly settled, but if he preferred the former, he might stay at home and enjoy it, which would be better than intruding on my beach, and interrupting me when I was practising. With this I locked up my boat, tucked the bugle under my arm, and marched off. Our neighbor merely laughed, and said nothing.
Our fruit did not turn out well this season on account of the drought. Our apple trees blossomed fairly, but the apples were stung by the curculio, and finished their growth by the time they got to look like dried prunes. I had the satisfaction, however, of producing a curious hybrid in my melon patch, by planting squashes in the next bed. I do not know which to admire mostthe influence of the melon on the squash, or the influence of the squash on the melon. Planted side by side, you can scarcely tell one from the other, except from appearance; but if you ever do eat a musk melon boiled, or a squash raw, you will have some idea of this singular and beautiful phenomenon.
On the Fourth of July we had company from town. Dear, said Mrs. S., have you seen our cherry? I answered, that I had set out many trees of that kind, and did not know which one she alluded to (at the same time a hopeful vision of cherry pie on the Fourth of July flitted across my pericranics). As we all walked out to see the glorious spectacle, I told our guests aside, the young trees were so luxuriant in foliage that I had not observed what masses of fruit might be concealed underneath the leaves, but that Mrs. S. had a penetrating eye, and no doubt would surprise me as well as them. When we came to the tree, my wife turned around, after a slight examination, and coolly observed, she thought it was there, but some boy must have picked it off.
This was a surprise, indeed, but not what I had expected. Mrs. Sparrowgrass, how could you expose me in such a way? How could you, after all my bragging to these city people about our fine garden, make a revelation that carried away the foundations of my pride in one fell swoop? How could you, Mrs. Sparrowgrass?