The Great Pig Story Of The Tweed.

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HANDS off, old man!" the young man cried —
They stood beside the Tweed,
Where still the name of Murdering Creek
Records some bloody deed.
The old man seized the hapless youth,
With frantic grasp and rough,
By what is popularly called
(But vulgarly) the scruff;
And shouted as he twirled him round,
And shook him to and fro;
"Was them consignments pigs? . . Great Scott!
Was them things pigs or no?"
Wild-eyed and gaunt, and grim he stood,
Beneath the scorching noon, —
Cantharides P. Roebuek, late
Of the steamboat Arakoon.
He was an ancient mariner,
A Yankee skipper he,
Whom winds of adverse destiny
Had blown across the sea; —
Whom hither still had Fate pursued,
And served with many a trick,
Till now he roamed the Tweed, a one-
Idea'd lunatic; —
Whom all men shunned, for whosoe'er
Upon his beat might chance,
Was bound to hear his tale in each
Minutest circumstance.
A tale that haunted such as heard,
Nor left them night or day;
A torturing enigma, too,
That turned their wits astray; —
For ofttimes they, like him who told,
Would vaguely wandering go,
And cry, "Was them consignments pigs?
Was them things pigs or no?"
"Hands off!" again the young man cried.
"It's this way, boss, you see,
We've come a stretch of thirty mile,
Her uncle, her, an' me.
"You see it's this way. Parson comes
Our road but once a year —
We lives at Yougerbungaree,
Just thirty mile from here; —
"At sundown yesterday I spied
The parson ridin' past;
I runs to Sue's, an' ‘Sue,’ says I,
‘Our chance is come at last!’
"This morning to his camp we goes,
Us three, an' mother, four;
‘Splice us,’ says we, but parson, he
Puts in his blessed oar.
" ‘Fill up this form,’ says he. We fills.
‘Hullo!’ he cries, ‘my dear!
Father alive? You under age?
Me marry ye! No fear.’
"(Don't throttle, boss!) — Says parson then,
‘Go, seek a magistrate;
Get his consent; an' hurry back;
I leave to-night at eight.’
"So off we starts, ten mile an hour —
(For heav'n's sake let me speak!)
You see, it's this way, boss; they've gone
To square it with the beak.
"I'm only hangin' round. I fixed
To meet them there at one;
An' if I fail, my pretty Sue
Will think I've cut an' run." —
"Was them things pigs?" — "Oh drat the pigs!
It's this way, boss, — we're late.
Think, thirty mile! the mokes dead beat!
An' parson off at eight!"
'Twas all in vain; and when at length,
Exhausted, limp, and pale,
He gave reluctant ear, 'twas thus
The skipper told his tale.
"I took the things on board as pigs,
As pigs I signed for them;
I passed an entry on them — pigs!
Pigs, sar, from starn to stem.
"Wal, wal; I little guessed that Fate
Would play it down so low.
Was them things pigs, d'ye hear! . . But how
The [Hades] should you know!
"It was the steamboat Arakoon,
A craft of coasting fame;
Cantharides P. Roebuck, sar,
Was skipper of the same.
"The iserlated cusses here
Was runnin' all to seed
When first the steamboat Arakoon
Come tradin' to the Tweed.
"Pigs, pigs, all sprung (mark that) from two,
They fetched them by the score,
An' nary strain had crossed the breed
For twenty year an' more.
"I cleaned the settlement of pigs,
Upp'd steam an' tore for town,
Nor guessed that them all-fired galoots
Had been and done me brown.
"An' sech a voyage! grunt and squeak!
(Pard, never load with swine.)
Whate'er the durned abortions wur,
The grunt was genu-ine.
"A hundred thousand times I swore
To drown them in the sea;
But, lord, they had an idgiot look
That fairly gravelled me.
"We made the port. Upon the wharf
A Brisbane butcher sot,
An' through the roarin' of the steam,
He hollered, ‘What ye got?'
" ‘Got pigs,’ sez I, ‘like bullocks, sar!’
Cries butcher, ‘I'm your man,’
An' clewin' up his apron, slick
Along the plank he ran." —
(But here the youth renewed his plaint;
"Have mercy on me, mate!
It's thirty mile! the mokes dead beat!
An' parson leaves at eight!")
"He eyed the brutes," the tale flowed on,
"An' tossed his cussèd head;
An' turnin' on his heel, sez he,
‘I thought 'twas pigs you said.’
" ‘An' ain't them pigs?’ — but he was gone.
Wal, though I biled at this,
I tried my level best to see
The p'ints he took amiss.
"But 'cep' a kinder cur'ous smile
That sqintin' didn't mend,
An' an appealin' way they had
Of settin' up on end, —
"An' 'cep' about the snout a tech
Of Native Porkypine,
I couldn't see no reason why
That parcel wasn't swine.
"Wal, stranger, just as I had cuss'd
My liver into tune,
Another bloomin' butcher stepped
On board the Arakoon."
(But here at sound of distant hoofs
The captive writhed anew;
"That's them!" he cried. "They've giv'n me up!
Oh curse your pigs and you!")
"No, pard — it ain't no use to squirm.
Whar was I? le'mme see.
Another butcher jumps aboard;
‘Good marnin' sar,’ sez he.
" ‘Got any p——?’ — But here he stuck.
The critturs caught his eye.
Sakes! how he stared as one by one
The things meandered by.
"At length sez he, astoopin' down,
The better to survey,
‘I wonder now what day o' the week
The Lord created they!
"‘What name, mate?’ ‘Pigs, sar, PIGS!’ I yelled.
‘As prime as ever growed!
D'ye know pigs when you see them, sar?’
‘Oh, pigs,’ sez he, ‘be blowed.’
"Pard, should you come across him, say
That I apologize,
For, oh, I banged that butcher's head
Agin the smokestack guys!
"I sought an old an' trusted friend,
A butcher in the town;
I struck his diggins, seized him, hailed
A shay, an' jerked him down.
"I carried him aboard — he was
A heavy man an' slow —
‘Now on your naked oath,’ sez I,
‘Air them things pigs or no?’
"He made no sign, he made no sound,
But something in his eye
As plain as signal-lights declared
The contract was awry.
"At last sez he, consid'rin' like,
An' strokin' down his jaws,
‘Cantharides P., it seems to me
Them pettitoes is claws!’
" ‘Great Neptune!’ — that was all I said,
And fell down in a swoon,
A broken wreck upon the deck
Of the steamboat Arakoon.
"But twurn't Finis yet, old hoss,
For at the smell of gin
Cantharides P. Roebuck's soul
Jumped back into his skin.
" ‘Go, fetch me a zew-ologist!’
I thundered as I rose.
‘Let's see what larnèd science makes
Of them 'ere pettitoes!
" ‘Who knows of one?’ — The fireman's son
Sez, ‘Captin, if you please,
If what you mean stuffs beastises,
I'll fetch you wan o' these.’
" ‘Go, bub!’ I cried. ‘Make tracks to onst,
An' ketch him out or in! —
This butcherin' conspiracy
Is just a trifle thin.’
"Wal, pard, the great man came. I slipped
A sov'rin in his hand,
Which, though he 'peared almighty skeered,
He seemed to understand.
"Sez I then, as he stooped an' spread
His hands upon his knees,
‘Illustrious zew-elogist,
What articles air these?’
"A wild surprise lit up his eyes
As through his specs he blinked, —
‘Dear me,’ sez he, ‘I always thought
That griffins wur extinct!’
* * * * *
"From that to this is blank — all blank;
But if 'tis true they say,
I ordered round the vessel's head,
An' ran her down the Bay.
"An' there, in spite of mate an' crew,
An' cook an' fireman's son,
I slung the critturs overboard,
An' drowned them every one.
"An' now beside this blessed Tweed
I wander day an' night,
An' vainly ask of airth an' heaven
To read the riddle right.
"I ask the sea, I ask the skies,
I ask it high an' low, —
Was them 'ere shipments pigs? . . Great Scott!
Was them things pigs or no?"
* * * * *
That night at Yougerbungaree,
The house clock striking ten,
Into a maiden's presence burst
The most distraught of men.
"Oh, Ned, he's gone!" the maiden wailed.
"How could you treat me so?" —
For all reply there came the cry,
"Was them things pigs or no?"

© James Brunton Stephens