"The Major in an Embarrassing Situation" by William Tappan Thompson (1843)

Pineville, May 28th, 1842.

To Mr. Thompson:-Dear Sir-
Ever sense I read that piece in the Companion bout the Great Attraction, and cousin Peter, its ben on my mind to rite you a letter, but the boys lowed I'd better not, cause you mought take me off bout my spellin and dictionary. But something happened to me tother night, so monstrous pervokin, that I can't help tellin you bout it, so you can put other young chaps on their gard. It all come of chawin so much tobacker, and I reckon I've wished there was no sich plagy stuff, more'n five hundred times siense it happened.

You know the Stallionses lives on the plantation in the summer time and goes to town in the winter. Well, Miss Mary Stallions, who you knows is the darlinest little gal in the county, come home tother day to see her folks. You know she's been to the Female College, down to Macon for most a year now. Before she went, she used to be jest as plain as a old shoe, and used to go fishin and huckleberryin with us, with nothin but a calico sun-bonnet on, and was the wildest thing you ever saw. Well, I always used to have a sort of a sneakin notion of Mary Stallions; and so when she come, I brushed up, and was tarmined to have a rite serious talk with her bout old matters; not knowin but she mought be captivated by some of them Macon fellers.

So, sure enough, off I started, unbeknowin to any body, and rode rite over to the plantation-you know ours is rite jinin the widder Stallionses. Well, when I got thar, I felt a little sort o' sheepish, but I soon got over that, when Miss Carline said (but she didn't mean me to hear her) "There, Pinny, (that's Miss Mary's nick-name, you know,) there's your bo come."

Miss Mary looked mighty sort o'redish when I shuck her hand and told her howdy, and she made a sort o' stoop over and a dodge back, like the little gals does to the school-marm, and said "Good evenin, Mr. Jones," (she used to always call me jest Joe.)

"Take a chair, Joseph," said Miss Carline, and we sot down in the parlor, and I begin talkin to Miss Mary bout Macon, and the long ride she had, and the bad roads, and the monstrous hot weather, and the like.

She didn't say much, but was in a mighty good humor and laughed a heap. I told her I never seed such a change in any body, nor I never didwhy, she didn't look like the same gal-good gracious! she looked so nice and trim-jest like some of them pictures what they have in Mr. Graham's magazine, with her hair all comed down longside her face, as slick and shiny as a mahogany burow. When she laughed she didn't open her mouth like she used to, and she set up strait and still in her chair, and looked so different, but so monstrous pretty! I ax'd her a heap o' questions, bout how she liked Macon, and the Female College, and so forth; and she told me a heap bout 'em. But old Miss Stallions and Miss Carline and Miss Kesiah, and all of 'em kep all the time interruptin us so we couldn't say nothin much, axin bout mother-if she was well, and if she was gwine to the Spring church next Sunday, and what luck she had with her soap, and all sich stuff, and I do blieve I told the old woman more'n twenty times that mother's old turkyhen was settin on fourteen eggs.

Well, I want to be backed out that-a-way, so I kep it a goin the best I could, till bimeby old Miss Stallions let her knitin fall three or four times, and then begin to nod and snap back like a fishin pole that was all the time gitin bites. I seed the gals lookin at oneanother and pinchin oneanother's elbows, and Miss Mary said she wondered what time it was, and said the College disciples or disciplines, or somethin like that, didn't low late hours. I seed how the game was gwine-but howsumever, I kep talkin to her like a cotton gin in packin time, as hard as I could clip it, and bimeby the old lady went to bed, and arter a bit the gals all cleared, and left Miss Mary to herself. That was jest the thing I wanted.

Well, she sot on one side of the fire-place, and I sot on tother, so I could spit on the hath, whar ther was nothin but a lightwood chunk burnin to give light. Well, we talked and talked, and I know you would like to hear all we talked about, but that would be too long.-When I'm very interested in any thing, or git vexed at any thing, I can't help chawin' a heap o' tobacker, and then I spits uncontionable, specially if I'm talkin. Well, we sot thar and talked, and the way I spit, was larmin to the crickets! I axed her if she had any bos down to Macon.

"Oh, yes," she said, and then she went on and named Matthew Matics, Nat. Filosophy, Al. Gebra, Retric Stronomy, and a whole heap of fellers, that she'd ben keepin company with most all her time.

"Well," ses I, "I spose they're mazin poplar with you, aint they, Miss Mary" for I felt mighty oneasy, and begin to spit a great deal worse.

"Yes," ses she, "they're the most interestin companions I ever had. I am anxious to resume their pleasant sciety."

I tell you what, that sort o' stumped me, and I spit rite slap on the chunk and made it "flicker and flare" like the mischief; it was a good thing it did, for I blushed as blue as a Ginny squash.

I turned my tobacker round in my mouth, and spit two Or three times, and the old chunk kep up a most bominable fryin.

"Then I spose your gwine to forgit old acquaintances," ses I, "sense you's ben to Macon, mong them lawyers and doctors; is you, Miss Mary? You thinks more o' them than you does of any body else, I spose."

"Oh," ses she, "I am devoted to them- I think of them day and night!"

That was too much-it shot me rite up, and I sot as still as could be for more'n a minute. I never felt so warm behind the ears afore in all my life. Thunder! how my blood did bile up all over me, and I felt like I could knock Matthew Maties into a gin shop, if he'd only ben thar. Miss Mary sot with her handkercher up to her face, and I looked rite into the fire place. The blue blazes was runnin round over the old chunk, ketchin hold here and lettin go thar, sometimes gwine most out, and then blazin up a little-I couldn't speak-I was makin up my mind for tellin her the siteation of my hart-I was jest gwine to tell her my feelins, but my mouth was full of tobacker, so I had to spit, and slap it went, rite on the lightwood chunk, and out it went, spang!

I swar, I never did feel so in all my born days. I didn't know what to do.

"My Lord, Miss Mary," ses I, "I didn't go to do it-jest tell me the way to the kitchen, and I'll go and git a light."

But she never said nothin, so I sot down agin, thinkin she'd gone to get one herself, for it was pitch dark, and I couldn't see my hand afore my face.

Well, I sot thar and ruminated, and waited a long time, but she didn't come, so I begin to think maybe she was not gone. I couldn't hear nothin, nor I couldn't see nothin, so bimeby ses I, very low, for I didn't want to wake up the family, ses I,

"Miss Mary! Miss Mary!" but nobody answered.

Thinks I what's to be done? I tryed agin.

"Miss Mary! Miss Mary!" ses I, but it was no use.

Then I heard the gals snickerin and laughin in the next room. I begin to see how it was; Miss Mary was gone and left me thar alone.

"Whar's my hat?" ses I, pretty loud, so somebody might tell me, but they only laughed worse.

I begin to feel bout the room, and the fust thing I knew, spang! goes my head, rite agin the edge of a dore that was standin open. The fire flew, and I couldn't help but swar a little, "d---n the dore," ses I, "whar's my hat?" but nobody said nothin, so I begin to think it was best to git out the best way I could, and never mind my hat. Well, I got through the parlor dore arter rakin my shins three or four times agin the chairs, and was feelin along through the entry for the frunt dore, but somehow I was so flustrated that I tuck the rong way, and bimeby kerslash I went rite over old Miss Stallioneses spinnin wheel, onto the floor! I hurt myself a good deal, but that didn't make me half so mad as to hear them confounded gals a gigglin and laughin at me.

"Oh," said one of 'em, (it was Miss Kesiah, for I knowed her voice,) "there goes mother's wheel! my Lord!"

I tried to set the cussed thing up, but it seemed to have more'n twenty legs, and wouldn't stand up no how-maybe it was broke. I went out the dore, but I hadn't more'n got down the steps, when bow! wow! wow! comes four or five infurnal grate big coondogs, rite at me, "Git out! git out! bellow, Cato! call of your dogs!" ses I, as loud as I could. But Cato was sound as a dead nigger, and if I hadn't a run back into the hall, and got out the frunt way as quick as I could, them devils would o' chawed my bones for true.

When I got to my horse, I felt like a feller jest out of a hornet's nest, and I reckon I went home a little of the quickest. Next mornin old Miss Stal lions sent my hat by a little nigger, but I haint seed Mary Stallions sense.Now you see what comes of chawin tobacker! No more from,

Your frend, till deth,

P. S. I believe Miss Mary's gone to the Female College agin. If you see her, I wish you would say a good word to her for me, and tell her I forgives her all, and I hope she will do the same by me. Don't you think I better rite her a letter? Cousin Pete makes a mighty sight o' game of me bout it, but I can shut him up slick as you please, by jest tellin him bout the "Great Attraction." He ses he know'd it was one of the showmen all the time, and that he jest made tend he didn't for fun. But the Pineville folks know better'n that. Cause, why didn't he go to the show the next night? When the boys plagues him, he ses he'll hold you sponsible for injerin his practice. But don't you be skeered, for he never had no practice. Tween you and me, uncle Josh better kep him home in the fust place, for he'll have to 'sport him any how, and it costs more to keep one doctor nor two common people you know.

NOTABEMY.- This letter was rit to my pertickeler frend Mr. Thompson, when he was editin the Family Companion, in Macon. I had no notion of turnin author then, but when it come out with my name to it, and ther want no use of denyin it, and specially as he rit me a letter beggin I would go on and rite for the Miscellany, I felt a obligation restin on me to continue my correspondence to that paper. All my other letters was rit to Mr. Thompson in Madison. J. J.