Welcome to PhiloLogic  
   home |  the ARTFL project |  download |  documentation |  sample databases |   
Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 [1839], The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 1 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v1].
To look up a word in a dictionary, select the word with your mouse and press 'd' on your keyboard.

Previous section

Next section

CHAPTER XIV. Like a previous chapter, adds another link to the chain of my adventures, without increasing the intensity of interest which they may have excited.

[figure description] Page 104.[end figure description]

The “phrenological rooms,” were a very small
office in Nassau street, with a dark closet attached
to it. There was a little cupboard in one corner,
filled with plaster busts, and most hideous looking
skulls. In the little closet, the floor of which was
covered with a dirty carpet, sat a lady on a high
stool, with her hair over her face, and Mr. Fingrum
the phrenologist standing over her, poking
his long bony fingers over her head, and calling
out the size of her organs to a pale young man,
who marked them upon a phrenological chart, as
they were announced. Mr. Fingrum was a tall gaunt
man, with a very thin face and a very red nose.
He wore a rusty suit of black, and a dirty white
cambric cravat. Altogether, his appearance was
philosophical in the extreme.

After the manipulation of the lady's head was
completed, and all her organs were properly set
down, she glanced over the chart, apparently with
great satisfaction; but, she thought her “amativ.”
was put down a number too high; upon which,

-- 105 --

[figure description] Page 105.[end figure description]

the phrenologist requested her to take off her
bonnet again, and he re-examined that particular
organ, and decided, that instead of its being rated
too high, it was actually a number too low. He
explained, that the reason why the lady had doubts
about it, was all owing to her “self-esteem” being
so very small.

With this explanation, she appeared entirely satised;
and when she left the “rooms,” she said she
should recommend several of her female acquaintances,
who had very interesting heads, to call on
Mr. Fingrum and be examined.

As the phrenological rooms were conducted on
the strictly republican principle of “first come first
served,” I was forced to wait my turn, and a stout
red faced gentleman next took his seat upon the

Mr. Fingrum hesitated for a minute before he
put his hands upon the head of his sitter, and going
to a glass case, he took out a half decayed skull,
which he appeared to regard with great delight.

“This,” said the phrenologist, with great solemnity,
“is the skull of Saint Paul.”

“What, the apostle!” exclaimed the stout gentleman,
starting upon his feet.

“The very same,” replied Mr. Fingrum.

“Bless my heart, bless my heart,” said the

-- 106 --

[figure description] Page 106.[end figure description]

gentleman, almost turning pale, and taking his seat
upon the stool again, “that ever I should live to
see the skull of Saint Paul the Apostle. Why he
has been dead these eighteen hundred years.”

“No he hasn't,” replied the phrenologist, “you
must remember that Saint Paul was a very old gentleman
when he suffered martyrdom, and that he
was not converted until some years after the ascension.”

“That is true,” said the gentleman, “he has not
been dead as long as I thought at first.”

“I want you should observe, sir,” continued Mr.
Fingrum, while he polished the skull with the
palms of his hands, “that a gentleman may have
a development of very bad propensities, and yet
be the best and noblest of his race. Or rather he
may have organs which might be productive of
evil, but which, under proper guidance, will become
instruments of good. Thus you see that destructiv.
and combativ., which are so fully developed
in Saint Paul, and which once sent him on
an errand of cruelty to Damascus, afterwards, when
his conscientiousness, which you observe is also
very large, had aided the Holy Spirit to work his
conversion, caused him to speak out so bravely
before Festus and Agrippa, and enter valiantly
into the theatre at Ephesus.”

-- 107 --

[figure description] Page 107.[end figure description]

“Well, well, I shouldn't wonder,” said the

Mr. Fingrum replaced the skull of Saint Paul
in the glass case, and commenced the examination
of the stout gentleman, who shut both eyes, and
held down his head as reverently as though Mr.
Fingrum was about to pronounce a benediction
upon him.

The phrenologist pressed his hands upon the
head of his sitter, and began to name over the developments
to his assistant, who sat, pen in hand,
ready to take down his remarks on a chart.

“Amativ. large,” mumbled Mr. F.; “Philoprogenitiv.
full; Adhesiv. large; Inhabitiv. small;
Concentrativ. large; Combativ. very large; Destructiv.
very large.”

“What,” exclaimed the gentleman, opening his
eyes, and turning redder in the face, “do you
mean to tell me that I am a destructive?”

“I say that you have combativeness and destructiveness
very largely developed, and that you
must, in consequence, be addicted to fighting,
and —”

“I say I am not,” replied the gentleman, “and
don't you tell me that again. I am one of the
most peaceable men in my Ward.”

“Perhaps you are,” said the phrenologist, “but

-- 108 --

[figure description] Page 108.[end figure description]

I am not accountable for your developments, and
I must repeat, that your destructiveness is very

“Take your hands off of my head,” exclaimed
the gentleman, jumping up, “and take that for
your insolence, you red nosed ghost.” And without
more ado, he struck the phrenologist a blow
under the ear, which sent him reeling up against
his assistant, who stumbled against the case which
contained the head of Saint Paul, which he overturned,
and smashed the glass plate which covered
that valuable relic. The destructive gentleman
then took his hat, and walked out of the “rooms,”
in a state of high excitement.

The phrenologists got upon their feet again, after
a while, but it was a long time before either could

“That is all owing,” said Mr. Fingrum, as soon
as he had recovered from his fright, “to my cautiousness
being so small; confound it, I wish it was
bigger. I perceived, at a glance, that that man's
self esteem and combativ., would make him a dangerous
subject to handle, and so I showed him the
peculiarities of Saint Paul's skull, to prepare his
mind for what I should be obliged to say about
his own; but I ought to have been more cautious.”

-- 109 --

[figure description] Page 109.[end figure description]

“And was that really Saint Paul's skull?” I

“That, no,” said the phrenologist, “it was the
skull of Gibbs, the pirate. I saw that the man's
marvel. was so large that he would believe any
thing I might tell him; if I had told him it was the
skull of Cain, he would have believed it. But he
shall find that my combativeness is as large as his
own; I will go immediately to the police office
and have him arrested.” And so he took his hat
and cane, and walked off, and I was obliged to
leave the rooms without having my head examined,
a circumstance which I regretted very much, as I
felt myself entirely at a loss to determine what pursuit
my talents best qualified me for. My inclinations
rather leaned to the course which my new
friend, Mr. Worhoss, had marked out for himself;
but I thought it would be prudent to try something
else first before I joined his party.

At the tea table I met Mr. Worhoss again, and
that kind hearted young gentleman invited me to
take a walk with him after tea and see the town.
As I was anxious to see every thing worth seeing,
I thanked him for his kindness, and accepted his
offer. He said he would just step up to his room
and dress, and then he should be ready for a walk.

As Mr. Worhoss's “to dress,” meant nothing

-- 110 --

[figure description] Page 110.[end figure description]

more than buttoning up another button of his coat,
and brushing his hair, and pulling down his wristbands,
I thought he was an unreasonable long time
in doing it. At length, however, he made his appearance,
with his slender ebony stick in his hand,
and we walked out together. The street lamps
were lighted, and Mr. Worhoss remarked that as
it was too late to see any thing in Broadway, it
would be advisable to go direct to the theatre. He
said there was to be a sterling English comedy, and
a new French dancer, and consequently, all the
beauty and fashion of the city would be present.

I very gladly assented to his proposal, thinking
that where all the beauty of the city was gathered
together, my beautiful Georgiana could not be

Mr. Worhoss proposed that we should sit in the
pit, as it was decidedly respectable, although not
as genteel as the boxes. Of course, I made no
objections; and when we reached the entrance, I
stopped short, expecting that he would procure the
tickets, as Mr. Lummucks had done, when he gave
me an invitation to go to the theatre with him.
But Mr. Worhoss only pointed to a little round
hole in the partition, and observed that that was
the place where they took the money for the

-- 111 --

[figure description] Page 111.[end figure description]

“Is it indeed?” I said.

“Yes,” said Mr. Worhoss, “and you had better
get a couple of tickets before they begin to
crowd about the doors.”

“O, ah,” I said, feeling very foolish, “I didn't
think of that.”

“I knew you didn't,” replied Mr. Worhoss,
“and that is the very reason why I reminded you
of it.”

According to the delicate suggestion of my new
friend, I bought two tickets, and we entered the
pit about half an hour before the performances
commenced, which gave me an opportunity to observe
all the beauties as they took their seats in
the boxes. I watched them very narrowly, hoping
to discover my beautiful Georgiana among them,
but I was disappointed; she did not come. It was
some consolation, however, to me, to know that
her ears would not be offended by the rude and
ribald language of the people in the pit. They
were a rough set. I thought that the respectability
of the pit was not quite so decided as Mr.
Worhoss had intimated; but he remarked, that
there was an unusual number of butcher boys present,
who were always a great annoyance to the
lovers of the legitimate drama, by their eating of
roasted pea nuts, and encoring all the songs.

-- 112 --

[figure description] Page 112.[end figure description]

I forget the name of the sterling comedy which
was played, but it was all about a wild young fellow,
who ran away with a beautiful young lady,
whom he succeeded in marrying in spite of the
exertions of her old guardian to prevent him. I
was delighted with the plot, and thought that the
moral was most excellent. After the comedy, Mr.
Worhoss, who appeared to know every body in
the Theatre, told me not only the names, but the
personal histories of a good many of the audience.
Amongst the rest, he pointed out to me an elderly
gentleman, with a good humored broad countenance,
a high nose, and a pair of twinkling black
eyes. “That gentleman,” said Mr. Worhoss, “is
Major Rigmaroll, the editor; he has written criticisms
about the stage for the last thirty years. I
know him all to pieces. He is going to publish a
book about Shakspeare, and he has already published
one, in which he proves as plain as the nose
on his face, which you see is plain enough, that the
American Indians are descended from Shem, Ham,
or Japheth, I forget which; he claims relationship,
by the way, with one of them himself.”

“Perhaps,” I said, “he wants to lay claim to
some Indian lands, on the score of family connexion.”

-- 113 --

[figure description] Page 113.[end figure description]

“Upon my soul I believe he has done so already,”
said Mr. Worhoss.

“He must be a very learned man,” I said, “to
be able to trace the origin of a people who are
themselves ignorant of their own descent.”

“I guess he is learned,” replied Mr. Warhoss;
“he knows Josephus Millerius by heart. But
look, see what a long glass he has got in his
hand; he has come here on purpose to criticise
the new danseuse.”

In a few minutes the stage bell rung; the musicians
in the orchestra began to play. “Hats
off,” cried the people in the pit. Up went the
green curtain, and disclosed a scene representing
a forest of trees growing out of a board floor, and
in bounced a fat woman, who, as soon as she got
to the centre of the stage, elevated one foot to a
horizontal position, and whirled round on the
other like a top. I must confess I was shocked
beyond measure, for I had some how or other imbibed
an idea that an opera dancer was a light
and gentle little creature, who tripped and bounded
before your vision in graceful movements,
like a sprite; but nothing could be more unlike
the reality, for here was a full grown woman
throwing about her legs in all manner of

-- 114 --

[figure description] Page 114.[end figure description]

ungainly attitudes, and with such an indecent scantiness
of clothing as to fairly make me blush.

But my ideas on this subject, I must acknowledge,
differed very much from those of Mr. Worhoss,
for he declared she was a magnificent dancer,
and he said, that, after witnessing such an exhibition,
it would be a down right bore to sit
through the farce. As I agreed with him in his
last opinion, we came out of the theatre, and I
was glad to get into the open air again. Mr.
Worhoss proposed taking something to prevent
our taking cold, and I followed him into a showy
bar-room, next door to the theatre. He called
for two glasses of port wine sangaree, and after
he had emptied his tumbler, he appeared to be
deeply absorbed in the contemplation of a hunting
piece which hung opposite to the bar. As
there were a good many young men standing
around, and the bar-keeper seemed to be waiting
for the pay for the sangarees, I threw down a
shilling, upon which Mr. Worhoss turned suddenly
round, and putting his hand into his pocket,
exclaimed, “you don't say you have paid?”

“Yes I have,” I replied.

“Well, that is too bad; come, let us go,” said
Mr. Worhoss.

“Now, sir,” said Mr. Worhoss, “let us have

-- 115 --

[figure description] Page 115.[end figure description]

some oysters, and then we shall be prepared to
finish the evening.”

I observed that I was not in the least hungry.

“That is nothing,” said Mr. Worhoss; “people
don't eat oysters because they are hungry,
any more than they drink wine because they are

I did not want to show my ignorance, so I
made no further objections, but followed Mr. Worhoss
down a steep pair of stone steps into a cellar,
which was brilliantly lighted up with gas
lights, and we took our seats in a little box just
big enough to hold two persons. The front of
it was enclosed by a red moreen curtain, behind
which a man's head obtruded itself as soon as we
entered, and ejaculated, “stew?”

“What is the meaning of that,” I asked, staring
at the head.

“Stew?” ejaculated the head again.

“He wants to know if you want a stew,” said
Mr. Worhoss.

But I did not know whether I wanted a stew or
not. So I made no reply, and the man exclaimed
once more, “stew?”

“No,” said Mr. Worhoss, “none of your stews.
Give us two half dozens fried, and whilst they

-- 116 --

[figure description] Page 116.[end figure description]

are cooking, two half dozens of raw ones in the
shell, and a lemon.”

The head disappeared, and very soon returned
with the raw ones, which were large and delicious.
Although I was not hungry, I succeeded
in swallowing half a dozen without any difficulty.

“I suppose you don't often drink anything?”
remarked Mr. Worhoss, in an inquiring tone.

“Not often,” I replied.

“Neither do I,” said Mr. Worhoss, “but a
glass of brandy and water is indispensable with
oysters. Shall I order a couple of glasses?”

“Certainly,” I replied, and the brandy and
water was brought.

In the next box were two young men regaling
themselves with a bowl of oyster soup. From
the sound of their voices I thought they were very
young. As they talked very loud, I could not
avoid hearing their conversation.

“I say, Nick,” says one, “how much does your
old man allow you per week?”

“Only a dollar,” replied the other.

“Only a dollar! what a mean old skunk he
must be!”

“Isn't he, proper? I'm blistered if I aint ashamed
of him. But I tell you how I manage it.

-- 117 --

[figure description] Page 117.[end figure description]

When I want money, I go to the old woman and
tell her I want to subscribe to the Missionary Society,
and she always forks out.”

“Ha, ha, that is first rate. But you know I
haint got no mother, so I can't do that, of course.
But I will tell you how I work it; when I want
money, I go down to the store and get a new
suit of clothes, and then go and pawn them in
Chatham street.”

“You do? Well I'm blest if that aint capital.
I mean to try that myself. But hurry and
eat up your soup, or we shall miss the after

“What, aint you going to have some pie?”

“No, I never eats pastry.”

“Then let us have some brandy.”

When these interesting young gentlemen were
gone, I remarked to Mr. Worhoss that I didn't
like the cellar at all, it was so close and confined.

“Not like it,” he exclaimed; “why, oysters
would not be oysters if they were not eaten in
a cellar. Don't you know there is an eternal
fitness about every thing, but particularly about
eating. The luxury of a dish does not consist so
much in its material, as in the place and manner
in which it is served. A bowl of greasy soup,

-- 118 --

[figure description] Page 118.[end figure description]

for instance, with kernels of pimento floating in
it, may be eaten in such a place as this with great
gusto; but if it were placed before you at a regular
dinner table, it would cause a rebellion in
your bread-bearer. And what man, in his senses,
would sit down to a table so narrow that his knees
interlocked with his neighbor's opposite, in any
place but an oyster cellar. But there is one exception
to the eternal fitness of things. Fried
oysters are fitting on all occasions and in all places.”

The fried ones were now brought, and Mr.
Worhoss called for more cold slaw, and two more
glasses of brandy, and during the next quarter of
an hour he did not speak a word. When we had
finished our oysters, he drew a long breath, and
we rose up to go, and instead of going up to the
bar to pay, he took up a newspaper, and pored
over it as earnestly as though he was reading it
for a task. The bar-keeper looked at me very
hard, and as Mr. Worhoss was so intensely interested
in the paper he was reading, I could not do
less than offer a bill in payment for the oysters and
brandy. After I had received my change, he
threw down his newspaper, and walked up to the
bar with his hand in his pocket, but the bar-keeper
told him the oysters were paid for.

-- 119 --

[figure description] Page 119.[end figure description]

“Franco,” says Mr. Worhoss, putting on a very
stern look, “don't do that again.”

“No, I won't, I assure you,” I replied.

“If you do you will offend me,” he replied.

And so we ascended into the upper world

“It has just occurred to me,” said Mr. Worhoss,
when he had reached the pavement, “that
to-night is soiree night at No. 8. We will go there
if you have no objection; they will admit me because
I am a volunteer, and they will not object
to you because you are a stranger.”

I told Mr. Worhoss I was entirely at his disposal,
and he might lead me wherever he liked.

“Perhaps you would prefer to go to a musical
party at the Shades,” he said.

“Which will cost the most?” I inquired; “the
Shades or the soiree.”

“O, the Shades, of course,” he said; “it will
cost nothing at the soiree.”

“Then I think I should a little prefer the soiree,”
I said.

“That is a bright idea,” said Mr. Worhoss,
“so come along.”

We walked down Broadway a short distance,
and then turned into a dimly lighted street, where
there appeared to be no dwelling houses, and the

-- 120 --

[figure description] Page 120.[end figure description]

side walks were lumbered up with bales and boxes.
We had not travelled far before we came to a very
small house, jammed in between two very high
warehouses, with large folding doors, painted in
fancy colors, and gilt block letters over the entrance,
indicating that it was the Engine Company
No. 8. I thought it was a very strange place for
a soiree, but I said nothing, and Mr. Worhoss took
a small key out of his pocket, and opened the door,
and I followed him through a dark and narrow
passage, up a pair of steep steps, wondering where
in the world he was leading me, when suddenly he
opened a door, and I found myself ushered into a
brilliantly lighted room, with a long table in the
centre, around which were seated fifteen or twenty
young men; they were all dressed in drab jackets
and trowsers, and red shirts, in the bosoms of
which was the figure 8, embroidered with white
tape. At one end of the table, seated in an arm
chair, which was elevated above the others, I
immediately discovered the little curly headed
captain, with steel spectacles, who had pulled
me out of bed the night before. The room was
elegantly furnished, and every thing in it bore
a strong contrast to the rough dresses of the company.
The chairs were of mahogany, with the
figure 8 carved in their backs; the floor was

-- 121 --

[figure description] Page 121.[end figure description]

carpeted, and the walls were hung round with pictures
in gorgeous gilt frames. One of the pictures represented
the apotheosis of a chief engineer,
whose name I have forgot.

The little captain in the chair requested us to be
seated, but remarked that it was against the rules
of the company to allow any but members to be
present at a soiree. I put my hand upon the handle
of the door to retire, but the little captain begged
that I would remain for his sake, and I hung
up my hat among the leather caps, and took a seat
at the table by Mr. Worhoss.

“That is just the way,” muttered a sallow looking
member, “we make laws and hang them up
in gilt frames, and then we obey them — if we

“Of course,” said the chairman, “it must be a
very bad community where they have not the grace
to make good laws, for nothing can be easier than
to pass virtuous resolutions; and any society or
company, that neglects to do that, must be in a
very bad way. That I take to be an axiom, to
say the least of it.” Saying which, the little chairman
took off his glasses, rubbed them with his
pocket handkerchief, and put them on again, and
looked as though he was determined to frown down
all opposition.

-- 122 --

[figure description] Page 122.[end figure description]

But the discontented member went on growling
and grumbling, utterly regardless of the
chairman's axiom and his severe frowns.

“That is the very thing that I find fault with,”
he said; “we pronounce our own condemnation by
making laws which we have not the virtue to observe.
It is just the way with us as a nation; our
fathers were willing to stake their lives, their fortunes,
and their sacred honors, to maintain the assertion
that all men are born free and equal, while
at the same time they held one quarter part of the
population of their country in bondage.”

“Fine him, fine him,” cried a dozen voices, “he
is talking politics.”

“I won't be fined,” said the grumbling member;
“I am only speaking the truth, and that is not politics,
no how you can fix it.”

“You must be fined,” said another, “for you
are talking religion.”

“I am not talking religion,” said the grumbler;
“I am only speaking my sentiments. I appeal to
the chair.”

“There is no religion in your sentiments, I will
swear,” said the chairman. “But you shall be
fined and turned out too, for you have been talking
abolition, and that is worse than either politics
or religion.”

-- 123 --

[figure description] Page 123.[end figure description]

“Turn him out, turn him out,” they all exclaimed,
starting upon their feet.

“I won't be turned out,” said the refractory
member, putting himself in a position of defence;
“Let not a soul of you dare to put a finger on

But firemen dare do any thing, and the abolitionist
was seized and hustled down stairs, and into
the street, in spite of all his threats and struggles.
Order was very soon restored, and the chairman
being called on for a song, he sang the following,
which he said was his own composition, and we all
joined in the chorus:

When years twice as many as o'er me have flown,
Shall have dropped from their pinions more sorrows and cares,
And I'm left to bear on ward the burthen alone,
Whose weight now a lov'd one endearingly shares.
Fond memory then, with her pencil of light,
Shall depict in bright colors the joys of this night.
When health shall desert me, when friends shall depart,
When wealth shall have open'd his pinions and flown;
When love, even love, shall have fled from my heart,
Then friendship shall cling to me still, though alone.
And memory then, with her pencil of light,
Shall depict in bright colors the joys of this night.
When death, even death, shall approach like a friend,
And I yield myself up to his chilling embrace;
With a hope of hereafter, though here all shall end,

-- 124 --

[figure description] Page 124.[end figure description]

My last effort shall be to help memory trace,
The forms of my friends with her pencil of light,
As she paints in warm colors the joys of this night.

All the rest of the company either sang a song or
told a story, as they were called upon. And then
the little captain was called upon to relate how he
got stuck upon the gable end of an old Dutch
house, down in Coenties slip, one winter night, at
the time of the great fire, by the seat of his trowsers
freezing to the ridge pole; and how all the
engines played upon him two or three hours without
any body discovering his perilous situation,
and how it took two or three kettles of hot boiling
water to make Jack Frost relieve his hold of him.

This he did with surprising exactness, as Mr.
Worhoss observed, considering he had told it so
many times before; for men, he said, were apt to
forget the particulars of a story after having repeated
it two or three hundred times.

The captain appeared gratified by the compliment
which Mr. Worhoss paid to his memory,
and shook his head despondingly, and said, fires
are not what they used to be, and intimated that
the department might go to blazes, for all he
cared, if there was not a turn out soon.

“There has not been a fire worth mentioning
since the great fire,” said one of the members,

-- 125 --

[figure description] Page 125.[end figure description]

who had not opened his lips before, and who
now looked up and down the table very sagaciously.

“That is a fact,” exclaimed one or two other
members, with as much solemnity as though it
was the only fact that had been uttered for the

“Wasn't that a first rate fire?” said another.

“I guess it was,” said two more simultaneously.

“Wasn't it?” said another.

“Didn't Bill Davis do something that night?”
said another.

“Do something?” said another little member;
“you may well say that; he did more than something;
he saved ever so many children. How
many was it, captain?”

“One only,” said the captain, “and a little
one too.”

“Of course it was a little one, or it could have
saved itself,” said another.

“How did it happen,” I asked, for I did not
care to remain silent any longer.

“Is Bill Davis present?” asked the gentleman
to whom I addressed myself.

“No, I see he is not, so I will tell you all about

-- 126 --

[figure description] Page 126.[end figure description]

it. You have heard about the great fire in
Chatham street of course,” he said.

“No, sir,” I replied, “I never heard it spoken
of before.”

“You never did?” he exclaimed; “well, wonders
will not soon cease, I do believe. I thought every
body had heard about that; why, it was on that
memorable occasion that I turned out for the
first time with number eight. It was a bitter cold
night in the month of January, and when I went
up to bed, says I, Mrs. Mix, says I, I should'nt
think strange if we had a fire to-night. I should'nt
wonder, says she, if we had, for I have always
observed, Mr. Smith, that fires happen in very
cold nights. So I went up to bed, and just as I
was in the very act of undoing my stock, bang
goes the jail bell, so down I went and ran for
dear life, and reached the house just as Bill Davis
was taking the machine out all alone by himself.”

“Isn't that Bill Davis a smart fellow?” said
one of the members, interrupting the story teller.

“Isn't he?” said another.

“I guess he is,” said a third.

“That is a fact,” said another, striking the table
enthusiastically with his fist.

-- 127 --

[figure description] Page 127.[end figure description]

The important truth that Bill Davis was a
smart fellow being established, the story teller proceeded.

“Hallo, Smith, is that you,” said Bill; “yes,”
says I; is that you, Davis? That is me,
says Bill, and so we never exchanged another
word until we reached the fire, and then, says he
to me, I tell you what, Smith, it is going to be a
rouser. Isn't it? says I, and then at it we
went. Bill took the pipe, and we began to play,
when up started a lady; where she came from,
we couldn't tell; save my child, she screamed,
save my child. Where is he, says Bill; up
there, says the lady, pointing to a window in the
third story, out of which the flames were bursting.
Bless my heart, says Bill, if he is in there, he is
gone already. O don't say he is gone, says she
I must save him, he is my only boy; and with that,
she steps on the ladder; I can't stand that, says
Bill, turning to me, and letting go the pipe; she
is the ladiest woman I ever saw, and I will save
the child or lose myself; and so he lifted the lady
off the ladder, and up he went, and into the window;
we never expected to see Bill again; but
I'm blest if he didn't soon make his appearance
again, with the child in his arms; and down he
came, and put it into its mother's lap, who was

-- 128 --

[figure description] Page 128.[end figure description]

sitting on the curb stone wringing her hands, and
crying enough to break the heart of a loco foco.
Didn't she then kneel right down in the gutter,
and begin to invoke blessings on to Bill's head.
But, Bill says, don't bother me, good woman,
with your nonsense. We got comfortable lodgings
for her that night, and the next day we got
up a complimentary benefit-ball for her and the
rest of the sufferers, and I wish I may never see
another house afire if her part of the proceeds of
that ball didn't set her up in an elegant thread and
needle store in the Bowery. And they do say
Bill means to marry that woman.”

“Ah, that was something like a fire,” said the
little captain, shaking his head mournfully; “that
happened before the hydrants were invented.
You don't see such fires now-a-days.”

One of the company, after this, favored us with
the following song:

Whose fate 'twill be to weep,
Whose fate 'twill be to die,
Before our feast again we keep,
You neither know, nor I.
But since this hour hath found us,
And friendship together hath bound us,
Pluck memory's flowers, while these moments are ours,
And throw her gay garland around us.

-- 129 --

[figure description] Page 129.[end figure description]

Whose fate 't will be to prove
Women are not all true,
Is known to one above,
But not to me nor you.
But since this hour hath found us,
&c. &c.
Whose fate 't will be to find
How weak is friendship's tie,
We do not know, but may it bind
Most firmly you and I.
But since this hour hath found us,
&c. &c.
Whose fate will 't be to know
The griefs which spring from wine,
To taste the dregs of human wo,
May't be nor yours nor mine.
But since this hour hath found us,
&c. &c.

The captain declared the song to be so decidedly
sentimental that he proposed a turn out and
a race with the machine, to work off its depressing
effects. The proposal was received with
general approbation; but there being nothing on
fire just at that moment, they requested Mr. Worhoss
to go up to the head of the street and give
an alarm. I thought it was a very strange proposition,
but he considered it a very good joke,
and agreed to do as he was requested. So the
soiree broke up, and we all repaired to the engine
house, the members in high glee, and the

-- 130 --

[figure description] Page 130.[end figure description]

little captain full of importance. The preparations
for rolling out were no sooner completed,
than we heard the cry of “fire! fire! fire!”
The doors of the engine house were immediately
thrown open, and away we started, dragging the
engine after us like horses, for I had volunteered
my services, expecting to see some fine sport.
Two ragged little boys ran on ahead with flaming
torches, and another followed in the rear with a
blue signal lantern. The little captain made as
much noise as he possibly could with his speaking
trumpet, shouting out, “pull away, boys, pull
away, boys,” with as much earnestness as though
half the city had been on fire. We had not rattled
over the pavements long, nor far, before the
church bells began to ring, and other engines and
hose carts began to dash up Broadway, thundering
over the pavements, and adding to the din
and confusion. But I got out of breath very
soon, and was compelled to let go the drag rope.
In escaping to the sidewalk, I came very near being
crushed beneath the wheels of a hose cart.
The lights from innumerable torches and signal
lanterns was flashing and flickering on every
side, lighting up the faces of the firemen as they
hurried past, and displaying the gorgeous ornaments
of the engines which they dragged after them.

-- 131 --

[figure description] Page 131.[end figure description]

It was a picturesque and novel sight to me, and
as I looked on to the confused scene, I forgot for
a time that it was all a farce, and that all the
noise, and turmoil, and display, was caused by
half a dozen thoughtless young fellows wanting to
have a spree. The uproar did not continue a
great while, for as soon as it was discovered that
there was no fire, the bells ceased ringing, and the
firemen dragged their machines slowly back to
their respective engine houses.

As I returned to my boarding house, I could
not help reflecting, as I went, on the many false
alarms there had been in the world, calling mankind
from their quiet homes to march like fiends
to battle, neither knowing whither they went, nor
for what reason they offered up their own or
sacrificed the lives of others; and accomplishing
no better end than to furnish picturesque subjects
for painters and poets.

-- 132 --

Previous section

Next section

Briggs, Charles F. (Charles Frederick), 1804-1877 [1839], The adventures of Harry Franco. Volume 1 (F. Saunders, New York) [word count] [eaf025v1].
Powered by PhiloLogic