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 10PROEM
to say in turn, each mounting his favorite hobby. It was an easy
transition, from this, into anecdote and story, and even our North
Carolinian roused himself up with a grunt, to yell out a wild ditty
of the "old North State," which he heard from his great-grand-
mother, and which he thought the finest thing in the shape of mixed
song and story which had ever been delivered to mortal senses since
the days of the prophets. It was one of the many rude ballads of a
domestic character, which we have unwisely failed to preserve, which
rehearsed the doings and death of Blackbeard the Pirate, "as he
sailed" in and out of the harbors of Ocracoke and Pamlico. The
strain was a woful and must have been a tedious one, but for the
interposition of some special providence, the secret of which remains
hidden from us to this day. It was observed that the voice of the
singer, pitched upon the highest possible key at the beginning,
gradually fell off towards the close of the second quatrain, sunk into
a feeble drawl and quaver ere he had reached the third, and stopped
short very suddenly in the middle of the fourth. We scarcely dared,
any of us, to conjecture the cause of an interruption which displeased
nobody. If this "sweet singer" from Tar River fell again to his
slumbers, it is certain that not a whisper to this effect ever passed
his lips. He gave us no premonitions of sleep, and no sequel to his
ballad. We were all satisfied that he should have his own way in the
matter, and never asked him for the rest of the ditty. He will
probably wake up yet to finish it, but in what company or what
coach hereafter, and after what season of repose, it is hardly prudent
to guess, and not incumbent on us as a duty.
His quiet distressed none of us. There were others anxious to
take his place, and we soon got to be a merry company indeed.
Gradually, in the increasing interest of the several narratives, we
forgot, temporarily, the bad roads and the drunken driver, recalled
to the painful recollection only by an occasional crash and curse from
without, to which we shut our ears almost as fervently as did Ulysses,
when gliding among the dogs of Scylla. Our singers were, in truth,
no great shakes, and our story-tellers scarcely better; but we grew
indulgent just as we grew needy, and our tastes accommodated
themselves to our necessities. It was only after all parties seemed
to have exhausted their budget, their efforts subsiding into short and