after device, relating to some part of the entire system,
I rose fiercely, convulsively, in my seat, drew one long breath, but whether he thought I was going to kill him,--I dare say I looked it,--or whether he saw a sheriff behind, or a phantom gallows before, I know not; but without waiting for the thunderbolt to strike, he rushed from the car as precipitately as he had rushed in. I WAS angry,--not because I was to have been cheated, for I been repeatedly and atrociously cheated and only smiled, but because the rascal dared attempt on me such a threadbare, ragged, shoddy trick as that. Do I LOOK like a rough-hewn, unseasoned backwoodsman? Have I the air of never having read a newspaper? Is there a patent innocence of eye-teeth in my demeanor? O Jeru! Jeru! Somewhere in your virtuous bosom you are nourishing a viper, for I have felt his fangs. Woe unto you, if you do not strangle him before he develops into mature anacondaism! In point of natural history I am not sure that vipers do grow up anacondas, but for the purposes of moral philosophy the development theory answers perfectly well.
In Boston we had three hours to spare; so we sent our luggage--that is, my trunk--to the Worcester Depot, and walked leisurely ourselves. I had a little shopping to do, to complete my outfit for the journey,--a very little shopping,--only a nightcap or two. Ordinarily such a thing is a matter of small moment, but in my case the subject bad swollen into unnatural dimensions. Nightcaps are not generally considered healthy,--at least not by physicians. Nature has given to the head its sufficient and appropriate covering, the hair. Anything more than this injures the head, by confining the heat, preventing the soothing, cooling contact of air, and so deranging the circulation of the blood. Therefore I have always heeded the dictates of Nature, which I have supposed to be to brush out the hair thoroughly at night and let it fly. But there are serious disadvantages connected with this course. For Nature will be sure to whisk the hair away from your ears where you want it, and into your eyes where you don't want it, besides crowning you with magnificent disorder in the morning. But as I have always believed that no evil exists without its remedy, I had long been exercising my inventive genius in attempts to produce a head-gear which should at once protect the ears, confine the hair, and let the skull alone. I regret to say that my experiments were an utter failure, notwithstanding the amount of science and skill brought to bear upon them. One idea lay at the basis of all my endeavors. Every combination, however elaborate or intricate, resolved into its simplest elements, consisted of a pair of rosettes laterally to keep the ears warm, a bag posteriorly to put the hair into, and some kind of a string somewhere to hold the machine together. Every possible shape into which lace or muslin or sheeting could be cut or plaited or sewed or twisted, into which crewel or cord could be crocheted or netted or tatted, I make bold to declare was essayed, until things came to such a pass that every odd bit of dry good lying round the house was, in the absence of any positive testimony on the subject, assumed to be one of my nightcaps; an utterly baseless assumption, because my achievements never went so far as concrete capuality, but stopped short in the later stages of abstract idealism. However, prejudice is stronger than truth; and, as I said, every fragment of every fabric that could not give an account of itself was charged with being a nightcap till it was proved to be a dish-cloth or a cart-rope. I at length surrendered at discretion, and remembered that somewhere in my reading I had met with exquisite lace caps, and I did not that from the combined fineness and strength of their material they might answer the purpose, even if in form they should not be everything that was desirable,--and I determined to ascertain, if possible, whether such things existed anywhere out of poetry.
As you perceive, therefore, my Boston shopping was not everyday trading. It was to mark the abandonment of an old and the inauguration of a new line of policy. Thus it was with no ordinary interest that I looked carefully at all the shops, and when I found one that seemed to hold out a possibility of nightcaps, I went in. Halicarnassus obeyed the hint which I pricked into him with the point of my parasol, and stopped outside. The one place in the world where a man has no business to be is the inside of a dry-goods shop. He never looks and never is so big and bungling as there. A woman skips from silk to muslin, from muslin to ribbons, from ribbons to table-cloths, with the grace and agility of a bird. She glides in and out among crowds of her sex, steers sweepingly clear of all obstacles, and emerges triumphant. A man enters, and immediately becomes all boots and elbows. He needs as much room to turn round in as the English iron-clad Warrior, and it takes him about as long. He treads on all the flounces, runs against all the clerks, knocks over all the children, and is generally underfoot. If he gets an idea into his head, a Nims's battery cannot dislodge it. You thought of buying a shawl; but a thousand considerations, in the shape of raglans, cloaks, talmas, and pea-jackets, induce you to modify your views. He stands by you. He hears all your inquiries and all the clerk's suggestions. The whole process of your reasoning is visible to his naked eye. He sees the sack or visite or cape put upon your shoulders and you walking off in it, and when you are half-way home, he will mutter, in stupid amazement, "I thought you were going to buy a shawl!" It is enough to drive one wild.
No! Halicarnassus is absurd and mulish in many things, but he knows I will not be hampered with him when I am shopping, and he obeys the smallest hint, and stops outside.
To be sure he puts my temper on the rack by standing with his hands in his pockets, or by looking meek, or likely as not peering into the shop-door after me with great staring eyes and parted lips; and this is the most provoking of all. If there is anything vulgar, slipshod, and shiftless, it is a man lounging about with his hands in his pockets. If you have paws, stow them away; but if you are endowed with hands, learn to carry them properly, or else cut them off. Nor can I abide a man's looking as if he were under control. I wish him to BE submissive, but I don't wish him to LOOK so. He shall do just as he is bidden, but he shall carry himself like the man and monarch he was made to be. Let him stay where he is put, yet not as if he were put there, but as if he had taken his position deliberately. But, of all things, to have a man act as if he were a clod just emerged for the first time from his own barnyard! Upon this occasion, however, I was too much absorbed in my errand to note anybody's demeanor, and I threaded straightway the crowd of customers, went up to the counter, and inquired in a clear voice,--
The clerk looked at me with a troubled, bewildered glance, and made no reply. I supposed he had not understood me, and repeated the question. Then he answered, dubiously,--
It was my turn to look bewildered. What had I to do with breakfast-caps? What connection was there between my question and his answer? What field was there for any further inquiry? "Have you ox-bows?" imagine a farmer to ask. "We have rainbows," says the shopman. "Have you cameo-pins?" inquires the elegant Mrs. Jenkins. "We have linchpins." "Have you young apple trees?" asks the nursery-man. "We have whiffletrees." If I had wanted breakfast-caps, shouldn't I have asked for breakfast-caps? Or do the Boston people take their breakfast at one o'clock in the morning? I concluded that the man was demented, and marched out of the shop. When I laid the matter before Halicarnassus, the following interesting colloquy took place.
I. "What do you suppose it meant?"