PARSON JOHN BULLEN’S LIZARDS.
by George W. Harris
AIT ($8) DULLARS REW-ARD.
‘TENSHUN BELEVERS AND KONSTABLES! KETCH ‘IM! KETCH ‘IM!
THIS kash wil be pade in korn, ur uther projuce, tu be kolected at ur about nex camp-meetin, ur thararter, by eny wun what ketches him, fur the karkus ove a sartin wun SUT LOVINGOOD, dead ur alive, ur ailin, an’ safely giv over tu the purtectin care ove Parson John Bullin, ur lef’ well tied, at Squire Mackjunkins, fur the raisin ove the devil pussonely, an’ permiskusly discumfurtin the wimen very powerful, an’ skeerin ove folks generly a heap, an’ bustin up a promisin, big warm meetin, an’ a makin the wickid larf, an’ wus, an’ wus, insultin ove the passun orful.
Test, JEHU WETHERO.
Sined by me,
JOHN BULLEN, the passun.
I found written copies of the above highly intelligible and vindictive proclamation, stuck up on every blacksmith shop, doggery, and store door, in the Frog Mountain Range. Its blood-thirsty spirit, its style, and above all, its chirography, interested me to the extent of taking one down from a tree for preservation.
In a few days I found Sut in a good crowd in front of Capehart’s Doggery, and as he seemed to be about in good tune, I read it to him.
“Yas, George, that ar dockymint am in dead yearnist sartin. Them hard shells over thar dus want me the wus kine, powerful bad. But, I spect ait dullers won’t fetch me, nither wad ait hundred, bekase thar’s nun ove ’em fas’ enuf to ketch me, nither is thar hosses by the livin jingo! Say, George, much talk ’bout this fuss up whar yu’re been?” For the sake of a joke I said yes, a great deal.
“Jis’ es I ‘spected, durn ’em, all git drunk, an’ skeer thar fool sefs ni ontu deth, an’ then lay hit ontu me, a poor innersent youf, an’ es soun’ a belever es they is. Lite, lite, ole feller an’ let that roan ove yourn blow a litil, an’ I’ll ‘splain this cussed misfortnit affar: hit hes ruinated my karacter es a pius pusson in the s’ciety roun’ yere, an’ is a spreadin faster nur meazils. When ever yu hear eny on ’em a spreadin hit, gin hit the dam lie squar, will yu? I haint dun nuffin tu one ove ’em. Hits true, I did sorter frustrate a few lizzards a littil, but they haint members, es I knows on.
“You see, las’ year I went tu the big meetin at Rattlesnake Springs, an’ wer a sittin in a nice shady place convarsin wif a frien’ ove mine, intu the huckil berry thickit, jis’ duin nuffin tu nobody an’ makin no fuss, when, the fust thing I remembers, I woke up frum a trance what I hed been knocked inter by a four- year old hickory-stick, hilt in the paw ove ole Passun Bullin, durn his alligater hide; an’ he wer standin a striddil ove me, a foamin at the mouf, a-chompin his teeth – gesterin wif the hickory club – an’ a-preachin tu me so you cud a-hearn him a mile, about a sartin sins gineraly, an’ my wickedness pussonely an’ mensunin the name ove my frien’ loud enuf tu be hearn tu the meetin ‘ous. My poor innersent frien’ wer dun gone an’ I wer glad ove hit, fur I tho’t he ment tu kill me rite whar I lay, an’ I didn’t want her tu see me die.”
“Who was she, the friend you speak of Sut?” Sut opened his eyes wide.
“Hu the devil, an’ durnashun tole yu that hit wer a she?”
“Why, you did, Sut” –
“I didn’t, durn ef I did. Ole Bullin dun hit, an’ I’ll hev tu kill him yet, the cussed, infernel ole talebarer!” –
“Well, well, Sut, who was she?”
“Nun ove y-u-r-e b-i-s-n-i-s-s, durn yure littil ankshus picter! I sees yu a lickin ove yure lips. I will tell you one thing, George; that night, a neighbor gal got a all fired, overhandid stroppin frum her mam, wif a stirrup leather, an’ ole Passun Bullin, hed et supper thar, an what’s wus nur all, that poor innersent, skeer’d gal hed dun her levil bes’ a cookin hit fur ‘im. She begged him, a trimblin, an’ a-cryin not tu tell on her. He et her cookin, he promised her he’d keep dark – an’ then went strait an’ tole her mam. Warnt that rale low down, wolf mean? The durnd infunel, hiperkritikal, pot-bellied, scaley-hided, whisky-wastin, stinkin olegroun’-hog. He’d a heap better a stole sum man’s hoss; I’d a tho’t more ove ‘im. But I paid him plum up fur hit, an’ I means tu keep a payin him, ontil one ur tuther, ove our toes pints up tu the roots ove the grass.
“Well, yere’s the way I lifted that note ove han’. At the nex big meetin at Rattilsnaik – las’ week hit wer – I wer on han’ es solemn es a ole hat kivver on collection day. I hed my face draw’d out intu the shape an’ perporshun ove a taylwer’s sleeve-board, pint down. I hed put on the convicted sinner so pufeckly that an’ ole obsarvin she pillar ove the church sed tu a ole he pillar, es I walked up tu my bainch:
” ‘Law sakes alive, ef thar ain’t that orful sinner, Sut Lovingood, pearced plum thru; hu’s nex?’
“Yu see, by golly, George, I hed tu promis the ole tub ove soap-greas tu cum an’ hev myself convarted, jis’ tu keep him frum killin me. An’ es I know’d hit wudn’t interfare wif the relashun I bore tu the still housis roun’ thar, I didn’t keer a durn. I jis’ wanted tu git ni ole Bullin, onst onsuspected, an’ this wer the bes’ way tu du hit. I tuk a seat on the side steps ove the pulpit, an’ kivvered es much ove my straitch’d face es I could wif my han’s, tu prove I wer in yearnis. Hit tuck powerful – fur I hearn a sorter thankful kine ove buzzin all over the congregashun. Ole Bullin hissef looked down at me, over his ole copper specks, an’ hit sed jis’ es plain es a look cud say hit: ‘Yu am thar, ar you – durn yu, hits well fur yu that yu cum.’ I tho’t sorter diffrent frum that. I tho’t hit wud a been well fur yu, ef I hadent a-cum, but I didn’t say hit jis then. Thar wer a monstrus crowd in that grove, fur the weather wer fine, an’ b’levers wer plenty roun’ about Rattilsnaik Springs. Ole Bullin gin out, an’ they sung that hyme, yu know:
“Thar will be mournin, mournin yere, an’ mournin thar,
On that dredful day tu cum.”
“Thinks I, ole hoss, kin hit be possibil enybody hes tote yu what’s a gwine tu happin; an’ then I tho’t that nobody know’d hit but me, and I wer comforted. He nex tuck hisself a tex pow’fly mixed wif brimstone, an’ trim’d wif blue flames, an’ then he open’d. He cummenced ontu the sinners; he threaten’d ’em orful, tried tu skeer ’em wif all the wust varmints he cud think ove, an’ arter a while he got ontu the idear ove Hell-sarpints, and he dwelt on it sum. He tole ’em how the ole Hell-sarpints wud sarve em if they didn’t repent; how cold they’d crawl over thar nakid bodys, an’ how like ontu pitch they’d stick tu ’em es they crawled; how they’d rap thar tails roun’ thar naiks chokin clost, poke thar tungs up thar noses, an’ hiss into thar years. This wer the way they wer tu sarve men folks. Then he turned ontu the wimmen: tole ’em how they’d quile intu thar buzzims, an’ how they wud crawl down onder thar frock-strings, no odds how tite they tied ’em, an’ how sum ove the oldes’ an’ was ones wud crawl up thar laigs, an’ travil onder thar garters, no odds how tight they tied them, an’ when the two armys ove Hell-sarpents met, then – That las’ remark fotch ’em. Ove all the screamin, an’ hollerin, an’ loud cryin, I ever hearn, begun all at onst, all over the hole groun’ jis’ es he hollered out that word ‘then.’ He kep on a bellerin, but I got so buisy jis’ then, that I didn’t listen tu him much, fur I saw that my time fur ackshun hed cum. Now yu see, George, I’d cotch seven ur eight big pot-bellied lizzards, an’ hed ’em in a littil narrer bag, what I had made a-purpus. Thar tails all at the bottim, an’ so crowdid fur room that they cudent turn roun’. So when he wer a-ravin ontu his tip-toes, an’ a-poundin the pulpit wif his fis’ – onbenowenst to enybody, I ontied my bag ove reptiles, put the mouf ove hit onder the bottim ove his britches-laig, an’ sot intu pinchin thar tails. Quick es gunpowder they all tuck up his bar laig, makin a nise like squirrils a-climbin a shell-bark hickory. He stop’t preachin rite in the middil ove the word ‘damnation,’ an’ looked fur a moment like he wer a listen fur sumthin – sorter like a ole sow dus, when she hears yu a-whistlin fur the dorgs. The tarifick shape ove his feeters stopp’t the shoutin an’ screamin; instuntly yu cud hearn a cricket chirp, I gin a long groan, an’ hilt my head a-twixt my knees. He gin hisself sum orful open-handed slaps wif fust one han’ an’ then tuther, about the place whar yu cut the bes’ steak outen a beef. Then he’d fetch a vigrus ruff rub whar a hosses tail sprouts; then he’d stomp one foot, then tuther, then bof at onst. Then he run his han’ atween his waisbun an’ his shut an’ reach’d way down, an’ roun’ wif hit; then he spread his big laigs, an’ gin his back a good rattlin rub agin the pulpit, like a hog scratches hisself agin a stump, leanin tu hit pow’ful, an’ twitchin, an’ squirmin all over, es ef he’d slept in a dorg bed, ur ontu a pisant hill. About this time, one ove my lizzards scared an’ hurt by all this poundin’ an’ feelin, an’ scratchin, popp’d out his head from the passun’s shut collar, an’ his ole brown naik, an’ wer a-surveyin the crowd, when ole Bullin struck at ‘im, jis’ too late, fur he’d dodged back agin. The hell desarvin ole raskil’s speech now cum tu ‘im, a’n sez he, ‘Pray fur me brethren an’ sisteren, fur I is arastilin wif the great inimy rite now! an’ his voice wer the mos’ pitiful, trimblin thing I ever hearn. Sum ove the wimmen fotch a painter yell, an’ a young doctor, wif ramrod laigs, lean’d toward me monstrus knowin like, an’ sez he, ‘Clar case ove Delishus Tremenjus.’ I nodded my head, an’ sez I, ‘Yas, spechuly the tremenjus part, an’ Ise feard hit haint at hits worst. Ole Bullin’s eyes wer a-stickin out like ontu two buckeyes flung agin a mud wall, an’ he wer a-cuttin up more shines nor a cockroach in a hot skillet. Off went the clamhammer coat, an’ he flung hit ahine ‘im like he wer a-gwine intu a fight; he hed no jackid tu take off, so he unbuttond his galluses, an’ vigrusly flung the ainds back over his head. He fotch his shut over-handed a durnd site faster nor I got outen my pasted one, an’ then flung hit strait up in the air, like he jis’ wanted hit tu keep on up furever; but hit lodged ontu a blackjack, an’ I sed one ove my lizzards wif his tail up, a-racin about all over the ole dirty shut, skared too bad tu jump. Then he gin a sorter shake, an’ a stompin kine ove twis’, an’ he cum outer his britches. He tuck ’em by the bottim ove the laigs, an’ swung ’em roun’ his head a time ur two, an’ then fotch ’em down cherall-up over the front ove the pulpit. You cud a hearn the smash a quarter ove a mile! Ni ontu fifteen shorten’d biskits, a boiled chicken, wif hits laigs crossed, a big dubbil-bladed knife, a hunk ove terbacker, a cob-pipe, sum copper ore, lots ove broken glass, a cork, a sprinkil ove whisky, a squirt, an’ three lizzards flew permiskusly all over that meetin-groun’, outen the upper aind ove them big flax britches. One ove the smartes’ ove my lizzards lit head-fust, intu the buzzim ove a fat ‘oman, es big es a skin’d hoss, an’ ni onto es ugly, who sot thuty yards off, a fannin hersef wif a tucky-tail. Smart tu the las’, by golly, he imejuntly commenced runnin down the centre ove her breas’-bone, an’ kep on, I speck. She wer jis’ boun’ to faint; an’ she did hit fast rate – flung the tucky-tail up in the air, grabbed the lap ove her gown, gin hit a big histin an’ fallin shake, rolled down the hill, tangled her laigs an’ garters in the top ove a huckilberry bush, wif her head in the branch an’ jis’ lay still. She wer interestin, she wer, ontil a serious-lookin, pale-faced ‘oman hung a nankeen ridin skirt over the huckilberry bush. That wer all that wer dun to’ards bringin her too, that I seed. Now ole Bullin hed nuffin left ontu ‘im but a par ove heavy, low quarter’d shoes, short woolen socks, an’ eel-skin garters tu keep off the cramp. His skeer hed druv him plum crazy, fur he felt roun’ in the air, abuv his head, like he wer huntin sumthin in the dark, an’ he beller’d out, ‘Brethren, brethren, take keer ove yerselves, the Hell-sarpints hes got me!’ When this cum out, yu cud a-hearn the screams tu Halifax. He jis’ spit in his han’s, an’ loped over the frunt ove the pulpid kerdiff! He lit on top ove, an’ rite amung the mos’ pius part ove the congregashun. Ole Misses Chaneyberry sot wif her back tu the pulpit, sorter stoopin forrid. He lit astradil ove her long naik, a shuttin her up wif a snap, her head atwix her knees, like shuttin up a jack-knife, an’ he sot intu gittin away his levil durndest; he went in a heavy lumberin gallop, like a ole fat waggon hoss, skared at a locomotive. When, he jumpt a bainch he shook the yeath. The bonnets, an’ fans clar’d the way an’ jerked most ove the children wif em, an’ the rest he scrunched. He open’d a purfeckly clar track tu the woods, ove every livin thing. He weighed ni ontu three hundred, bed a black stripe down his back, like ontu a ole bridil rein, an’ his belly wer ’bout the size, an’ color ove a beef paunch, an’ hit a-swingin out frum side tu side; he leand back frum hit, like a littil feller a-totin a big drum, at a muster, an’ I hearn hit plum tu whar I wer. Thar wer cramp-knots on his laigs es big es walnuts, an’ mottled splotches on his shins; an’ takin him all over, he minded ove a durnd crazy ole elephant, pussessed ove the devil, rared up on hits hind aind, an’ jis’ gittin frum sum imijut danger ur tribulashun. He did the loudest, an’ skariest, an’ fussiest runnin I ever seed, tu be no faster nur hit wer, since dad tried tu outrun the ho’nets.
“Well, he disapear’d in the thicket jis’ bustin – an’ ove all the noises yu ever hearn, wer made thar on that camp groun’: sum wimen screamin – they wer the skeery ones; sum larfin – they wer the wicked ones; sum cryin – they wer the fool ones, (sorter my stripe yu know;) sum tryin to git away wif thar faces red – they wer the modest ones; sum lookin arter ole Bullin – they wer the curious ones; sum hangin clost tu thar sweethearts – they wer the sweet ones; sum on thar knees wif thar eyes shot, but facin the way the ole mud turtil we a-runnin – they wer the ‘saitful ones; sum duin nuthin – they wer the waitin ones; an’ the mos’ dangerus ove all ove em by a durnd long site.
“I tuck a big skeer mysef arter a few rocks, an’ sich like fruit, spattered ontu the pulpit ni ontu my head; an’ es the Lovingoods, durn em! knows nuffin but tu run, when they gits skeerd, I jis’ put out fur the swamp on the krick. As I started, a black bottil ove bald-face smashed agin a tree furninst me, arter missin the top ove my head ’bout a inch. Sum durn’d fool professor dun this, who hed more zeal or sence; fur I say that eny man who wud waste a quart ove even mean sperrits, fur the chance ove knockin a poor ornary devil like me down wif the bottil, is a bigger fool nor ole Squire Mackmullen, an’ he tried tu shoot hissef wif a onloaded hoe-handle.”
“Did they catch you Sut?”
“Ketch thunder! No sir! jis’ look at these yere laigs! Skeer me, hoss, jis’ skeer me, an’ then watch me while I stay in site, an’ yu’ll never ax that fool question agin. Why, durn it, man, that’s what the ait dullers am fur.
“Ole Barbelly Bullin, es they calls ‘im now, never preached ontil yesterday, an’ he hadn’t the fust durn’d ‘oman tu hear ‘im, they hev seed too much ove ‘im. Passuns ginerly hev a pow’ful strong holt on wimen; but, boss, I tell yu thar ain’t meny ove em kin run start nakid over an’ thru a crowd ove three hundred wimen an’ not injure thar karacters sum. Enyhow, hits a kind ove show they’d ruther see one at a time, an’ pick the passun at that. His tex’ wer, ‘Nakid I cum intu the world, an’ nakid I’m a gwine outen hit, ef I’m spard ontil then.’ He sed nakidness warnt much ove a sin, purtickerly ove dark nights. That he wer a weak, frail wum ove the dus’, an’ a heap more sich truck. Then he totch ontu me; sed I wer a livin proof ove the hell-desarvin nater ove man, an’ that thar warnt grace enuf in the whole ‘sociation tu saften my outside rind; that I wer ‘a lost ball’ forty years afore I wer born’d, an’ the bes’ thing they cud du fur the church, wer tu turn out, an’ still hunt fur me ontil I wer shot. An’ he never said Hell-sarpints onst in the hole preach. I b’leve, George, the durnd fools am at hit.
“Now, I wants yu tu tell ole Barbelly this fur me, ef he’ll let me an’ Sall alone, I’ll let him alone – a-while; an’ ef he don’t, ef I don’t lizzard him agin, I jis’ wish I may be dod durnd! Skeer him if yu ken.
“Let’s go tu the spring an’ take a ho’n.
“Say George, didn’t that ar Hell-sarpint sermon ove his’n, hev sumthin like a Hell-sarpint aplicashun? Hit looks sorter so tu me.”