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 PROEMII
feeble snatches when there was only, at long intervals, a sort of
crackling from dry thorns under the pot of wit it was only then
that our mammoth Tennesseean, who had hitherto maintained a very
modest silence, as if totally unambitious of the honors of the
raconteur, now suddenly aroused himself with a shake not very
unlike that of a Newfoundland dog fresh from the water.
"Stranger," says he to me, "ef so be you will only skrooge yourself
up so as to let me have this arm of mine parfectly free for a swing,
as I find it necessary, I'll let out a little upon you in relation to
sartain sarcumstances that come pretty much to my own knowledge,
a year or two ago, in Florida."
To skrooge myself up, in the expressive idiom of my neighbor,
into a yet narrower compass than I had been compelled to keep
before, was a thing wholly out of the question. But a change of
position might be effected, to the relief of both parties, and this was
all that he really wanted. I contrived, after a desperate effort, to
satisfy him, and, in some degree, myself.
"I can't, somehow, talk easy, ef my arms ain't loose," he continued,
apologetically. "My tongue and arm must somehow work together,
or I ain't half the man I ought to be. It's like being suffered to
spout out, when you're rushing upon the inimy; and when you can
halloo as you rush, you feel wolfish all over. I've had the feeling.
Now, it's so in talking. Ef you can use the arms when you talk, your
words come free, and jest of the right nature. It's like what people
mean when they say `the word and the blow!' They do help each
other mightily. Now, I'll try, as we're mightily close set for room
in this wagon, to jest make as little a swing of the arms as possible;
for you see, I might, onintending anything of the sort, give a person,
standing or sitting on eny side of me, a smart notion of a knock;
that is, in the heat and hurry of the argyment. I've done such a thing
more than once, without meaning it; only I'll try to be within
bounds this time, and I beg you'll take no offence. I'm sure, gentle-
men, if my motion don't trouble you, though it's a rether oneasy one,
I shan't mind it at all myself."
Here was an excellent fellow! In his eloquence, he might swing
his great mutton fist across my mazzard, and the thing, if not
positively disagreeable to me, would be of no sort of disturbance to