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Slickens

Ambrose Bierce 1842 (Meigs County) – 1914 (Chihuahua)



DRAMATIS PERSONAE.

HAYSEED _a Granger_
NOZZLE _a Miner_
RINGDIVVY _a Statesman_
FEEGOBBLE _a Lawyer_
JUNKET _a Committee_

_Scene_-Yuba Dam.

_Feegobble, Ringdivvy, Nozzle_.

NOZZLE:

My friends, since '51 I have pursued
The evil tenor of my watery way,
Removing hills as by an act of faith

RINGDIVVY:

Just so; the steadfast faith of those who hold,
In foreign lands beyond the Eastern sea,
The shares in your concern-a simple, blind,
Unreasoning belief in dividends,
Still stimulated by assessments which,
When the skies fall, ensnaring all the larks,
Will bring, no doubt, a very great return.

ALL (_singing_):

O the beautiful assessment,
The exquisite assessment,
The regular assessment,
That makes the water flow.

RINGDIVVY:

The rascally-assessment!

FEEGOBBLE:

The murderous assessment!

NOZZLE:

The glorious assessment
That makes my mare to go!

FEEGOBBLE:

But, Nozzle, you, I think, were on the point
Of making a remark about some rights-
Some certain vested rights you have acquired
By long immunity; for still the law
Holds that if one do evil undisturbed
His right to do so ripens with the years;
And one may be a villain long enough
To make himself an honest gentleman.

ALL (_singing_):

Hail, holy law,
The soul with awe
Bows to thy dispensation.

NOZZLE:

It breaks my jaw!

RINGDIVVY:

It qualms my maw!

FEEGOBBLE:

It feeds my jaw,
It crams my maw,
It is my soul's salvation!

NOZZLE:

Why, yes, I've floated mountains to the sea
For lo! these many years; though some, they say,
Do strand themselves along the bottom lands
And cover up a village here and there,
And here and there a ranch. 'Tis said, indeed,
The granger with his female and his young
Do not infrequently go to the dickens
By premature burial in slickens.

ALL (_singing_):

Could slickens forever
Choke up the river,
And slime's endeavor
Be tried on grain,
How small the measure
Of granger's treasure,
How keen his pain!

RINGDIVVY:

'A consummation devoutly to be wished!'
These rascal grangers would long since have been
Submerged in slimes, to the last man of them,
But for the fact that all their wicked tribes
Affect our legislation with their bribes.

ALL (_singing_):

O bribery's great-
'Tis a pillar of State,
And the people they are free.

FEEGOBBLE:

It smashes my slate!

NOZZLE:

It is thievery straight!

RINGDIVVY:

But it's been the making of me!

NOZZLE:

I judge by certain shrewd sensations here
In these callosities I call my thumbs
thrilling sense as of ten thousand pins,
Red-hot and penetrant, transpiercing all
The cuticle and tickling through the nerves
That some malign and awful thing draws near.

(_Enter Hayseed._)

Good Lord! here are the ghosts and spooks of all
The grangers I have decently interred,
Rolled into one!

FEEGOBBLE:

Plead, phantom.

RINGDIVVY:

You've the floor.

HAYSEED:

From the margin of the river
(Bitter Creek, they sometimes call it)
Where I cherished once the pumpkin,
And the summer squash promoted,
Harvested the sweet potato,
Dallied with the fatal melon
And subdued the fierce cucumber,
I've been driven by the slickens,
Driven by the slimes and tailings!
All my family-my Polly
Ann and all my sons and daughters,
Dog and baby both included
All were swamped in seas of slickens,
Buried fifty fathoms under,
Where they lie, prepared to play their
Gentle prank on geologic
Gents that shall exhume them later,
In the dim and distant future,
Taking them for melancholy
Relics antedating Adam.
I alone got up and dusted.

NOZZLE:

Avaunt! you horrid and infernal cuss!
What dire distress have you prepared for us?

RINGDIVVY:

Were I a buzzard stooping from the sky
My craw with filth to fill,
Into your honorable body I
Would introduce a bill.

FEEGOBBLE:

Defendant, hence, or, by the gods, I'll brain thee!-
Unless you saved some turneps to retain me.

HAYSEED:

As I was saying, I got up and dusted,
My ranch a graveyard and my business busted!
But hearing that a fellow from the City,
Who calls himself a Citizens' Committee,
Was coming up to play the very dic
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:23 min read
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Ambrose Bierce

Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce was an American editorialist, journalist, short story writer, fabulist, and satirist. more…

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