Wlliam Gilmore Simms
As Good as a Comedy and Paddy McGann >> As Good as a Comedy, or The Tennesseean's Story >> Proem

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Proem

Novella | U of South Carolina P | 1972
Transcription 6PROEM

A general scramble followed the rolling of the baggage in the
rear, and sudden silence of the human voice, while each strove to
maintain his equilibrium, seizing upon the nearest solid object.
"She rights!" said one.
"Eh! does she? I'm glad of it," was the reply of another, "since
I hope this gentleman will now suffer my head to get back fairly
upon its shoulders."
There was a release of the victim and an apology. Indeed, there
were several apologies necessary. We were momently making free
with the arms and sides and shoulders of our neighbors, under the
impulse of a sudden dread of the upset, which it is wonderful how
we continued to escape. We compared notes. Our apprehensions
were general. The driver was appealed to; we howled to him through
the pipes of a Down Easter, entreating him to drive more gently.
"Gently, be hanged ! " was the horrid answer, followed up by a
tremendous smack of the whip. Away went the horses at a wilder
rate than ever, and we were left, without hope or consolation, to all
sorts of imaginable and unimaginable terrors. We had no help for
it, and no escape. We could only brood over our terrors, and mutter
our rage. There were curses, not only loud, but deep. It was in vain
that our individual philosophies strove to silence our discontents ;
these were kept alive by the suggestions of less amiable companions.
Our very efforts to conceal our fears sufficiently betrayed them to all
who were cool enough to make the discovery. But self-esteem was
reassured by the general sympathy of most of our comrades. There
were various emotions among us the modified exponents of the
one in common modified according to age, temper, and education.
Our various modes of showing them made us altogether a proper
group for dramatic contrasts. We could have played our parts, no
doubt very decently, upon any stage but that. We could have strutted
manfully, and shown good legs, but scarcely upon boards which
creaked and cracked as with convulsions of their own, as we hurried
headlong up the heights, or rushed whizzing through the mire.
And we should have had variety enough for character. Our nine
passengers might have represented as many States. Never was there
a more grateful diversity. There was a schoolmaster from Massa-
chusetts. Whither, indeed, does not Massachusetts send her school-