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When any young couple in the neighborhood got married, we always gave 'em a chivaree. No, I don't know where the word came from, but that's what we called it. It wasn't the custom then to make very lengthy weddin' trips; from the old to the new home, at the head of a long procession of top buggies or cutters, as the season might be, was about the size of it, and the day after the weddin', Mary put on her calico and John his homespun, and the romance dwindled down into solid happiness.
It was the first night at the new home, wherever it might be, that the chivaree took place, and we boys used to make it warm, I tell you.
Well, the night I'm goin' to tell you about, a feller by the name of Lem Silver had married a girl from the next concession named Polly Hegadorn, and had brought her home to live with his old folks. Old Cyrene Silver, Lem's father, was a crusty, tight-fisted customer, and none of the boys wasted much love on him. So we had planned, the moment we heard of the approachin' weddin', to wake Uncle Cyrene up a bit and make him shell out five dollars, the customary tip.
Father somehow heard of the threatened chivaree, and on the evenin' in question, after supper, while me an' Ed was sittin' innocent as two lambs by the cook stove, he said to us:
"Boys, I hear there's goin' to be a chivaree up to Cyrene Silver's to-night. Now, I want you to distinctly understand that you're not goin'," and he added as a clincher — "if I ever hear of you attendin' one of them disgraceful affairs, I'll tan your jackets for you."
Then he sat down to read the Christian Guardian, while me an' Ed exchanged sly winks, and Jane made eyes at us from across the cook stove.
At eight o'clock we went to bed, solemn as mice, and it wasn't long before we heard father windin' up the clock, puttin' out the dog and lockin' up for the night.
We waited half an hour longer, and then slid out of bed, all dressed, opened the window, crawled out, and scooted up the road to Will Tinker's, where we had previously agreed to meet and black up. Oh, yes, we always blacked up. It wouldn't have been a chivaree done in proper style if we hadn't.
When the crowd was ready we started, with tin horns, cow bells, horse pistols, old army muskets, wash boilers, and every blame thing you can think of as a likely ear-splitter.
At the four corners we met a gang of fellers from the next concession — friends of the bride — rigged out in fantastic garments, and haulin' a small cannon which they had borrowed from an Orange lodge for the occasion. They fell in with us readily enough, and together we swooped down on the home of the happy couple.
Will Tinker, who always led us in these chivarees, was chosen to make the speech after the first salute, for he was a natural-born speaker and had a loud voice. So we grouped around him in the front yard, and, at command, began a symphony of tin pans, tin horns, conch shells, and cow bells, with the occasional poppin' of a horse pistol as a variation. It didn't raise a bird! The blinds were closely drawn, and we could only see traces of a dim light in the sittin' room.
Will looked wistfully at the cannon, but resisted the temptation, and ordered another onslaught, with the muskets this time for the climax. You know those old, long, army muskets? — six feet tall an' capable of holdin' a handful of powder? Lord! how they did roar when they came in! One of the firers was kicked clean through the front gate out into the road.
But they did the business, for we heard the front door open and saw Uncle Cyrene standin' bare-headed on the stoop. With a wave of the hand, Will Tinker commanded silence, and began his usual speech, flowery as a hot-house and every word a jaw-breaker. But the old man wouldn't listen.
"Shet up, you fool!" he yelled, " and listen to me. I won't stand any of this dum tomfoolery on my premises — do ye hear? And ef the whole pasel of you ain't out o' my yard in one minute, I'll hey ye all up for assault and battery."
"Pay toll or stand treat!" Will hollered back, defiantly.
"Not a cent, or a mug o' cider," Uncle Cyrene replied, and returnin' to the house, slammed the door in our faces.
Then we started to sing a song Ed had made up about Lem and Polly, which we'd all learned by heart. A mighty good song it was, and I wish I could remember a verse or so, but I never could recall the words of a song.
This didn't soothe the troubled waters, and so the leader of the boys from the next concession determined to bring the cannon into play. It was hauled under the window of the sittin' room and loaded to the muzzle; then all stood back while it was fired.
I'll never forget till my dyin' day the noise that cannon made. It just tore things to pieces and broke every pane of glass in the sittin' room window. We were all about scart to death, but it scart old Cyrene worse'n any of us, for he came totterin' out from the front door pale as a sheet, with a five-dollar bill in his hand. He couldn't open his mouth, he was that scart, but we caught a glimpse of Lem and Polly peekin' through the open door, grinnin' from ear to ear; so this cheered us up, and Will delivered his speech, while the old man stood and took it gentle as a kitten.
We took the five dollars and gave half to the boys from the next concession, hauled the cannon out into the road, fired a partin' salute, and started for home.
Everything so far had gone well, but it wasn't to end so, for just as we got to the four corners, Pete Hawley, one of our fellers, picked a quarrel, as he was always doin', with a boy twice his size from the other crowd, and nothin' would do but they must fight it out. We smaller boys crawled up on a lumber pile beside a cooper shop, to see the fun. Now you must keep this lumber pile in mind, for it had a lot to do with subsequent events. You've all seen the kind of lumber pile it was, I guess — a three-sided, holler affair, you know — the boards overlappin' at each corner, the lumber bein' piled this way to season. It was probably twelve feet high. Anyway, we climbed up to the top board, so as to see the fight, and with us came a long-geared boy from the next concession crowd, — one of them growed-in-a-night kind of boys. I see him now, sittin' there in the moonlight, his lank knees up to his chin, for his heels was stuck in between the second and third board. Pete Hawley won the fight — he always did — and down we came from our roost and scampered for home.
Me an' Ed was about fagged out, I tell you, when we crawled through the window into our room, and undressin', fell into bed. I never knew a thing after I struck the piller till I heard father's sharp voice from the kitchen, —
"Get up, there, you boys, and tend to your chores."
I 'rose by instinct, hauled on my trousers, and went out into the kitchen, rubbin' my eyes.
"Didn't I tell you not to go to that chivaree?" was the first words of greetin', an' father was standin' over me with a half-raised stick of stove wood.
"We ain't been to no chivaree," I mumbled in reply.
"How dare you lie to me?" he cried.
"I aint lyin'," I said, stoutly.
"Oh, I'll warm you boys for this!" he went on; "first, for disobeyin' me an' then lyin' about it."
"But, sir," I managed to say, "how could we have gone to the chivaree when we haven't been out of our beds all night."
"Haven't been out of your beds all night!" father cried. "To think that a son of mine should be such a liar!"
I couldn't imagine what made him so positive, for I knew that if he'd missed us durin' the night he would have either gone after us, or been waitin' our return, for with all his apparent harshness, us two boys was the apple of his eye, and he couldn't have slept a wink.
"Come out of there, you!" he shouted at Ed, and I turned an' saw poor Ed come stumblin' from the room, still half asleep, an' diggin' his knuckles into his eyes. The mystery was explained. Ed's face was as black as a nigger's, save where the piller had rubbed some of the stuff off. We had forgot to wash!
I tell you, we got a trouncin' for that affair, and Jane stood in the wood-house door an' bawled in sympathy while we was gettin' it. But pshaw! we didn't mind a little thing like that, and was all over it in an hour.
About the lumber pile? Say! I nearly forgot that, an' it's really the best part of the story.
That was the funniest thing! I can't help laffin' when I think of it. You remember the tall, gawky boy I told you of, who climbed up an' sat beside us durin' the fight? Well, now you know, that boy was lost to sight from that night. His parents went wild, but the other boys couldn't remember where they'd seen him last. He was one of them still, quiet boys, you know, — the kind of feller that just glides along an' never says nothin'. They searched the woods high an' low, and even advertised in the papers, but no boy turned up. I never saw the neighborhood so excited.
Me an' Ed could both tell a straight story. We remembered him well climbin' up the lumber pile, an' we left him there when we went home. It was a mystery, and after awhile even his parents gave up lookin'.
Now, where do ye think they found him? You'd never guess. In the middle of that lumber pile, dead as a door-nail! He'd fell over backward an' broke his neck. Did you ever hear the like! Course, me an' Ed felt sorry for him at first, but we didn't know him well, and whenever we'd think of that long, lanky boy sittin' there with his knees in the air, an' all of a sudden tumblin' over backwards into that lumber pile, we couldn't help laffin'. It was funny, I'm darned if it wasn't. But it ended our chivarees for many a long day.