Was tall and fair;
Mrs. McNair was slim;
She had flashing black eyes and raven hair;
But a very remarkably modest air;
And her only care was for Mr. McNair;
She was exceedingly fond of him.
He sold “notions” and lace
With wonderful grace,
And kept everything neatly displayed in its place:
The red, curly hair on his head and his face
He always persisted
Should be oiled and twisted;
He was the sleekest young husband that ever existed.
Precisely at four
He would leave his store;
And Mr. McNair with his modest bride
Seated snugly and lovingly by his side,
On the rural Broadway,
Every pleasant day,
In his spick-span carriage would rattle away.
Though it must be allowed
The lady was proud,
She’d have no maid about her the dear lady vowed:
So for Mr. McNair
The wear and the fare
She made it a care of her own to prepare.
I think I may guess, being married myself,
That the cause was not solely the saving of pelf.
As for her, I’ll declare,
Though raven her hair,
Though her eyes were so dark and her body so slim,
She hadn’t a thought for a man but him.
From three to nine,
Invited to dine,
Oft met at the house of the pair divine:
Her husband–and who, by the way, was well able–
Did all the “agreeable” done at the table;
While she–most remarkably loving bride–
Sat snugly and modestly down by his side.
And when they went out
It was whispered about,
“She’s the lovingest wife in the town beyond doubt;”
And every one swore, from pastor to clown,
They were the most affectionate couple in town.
Yes; Mrs McNair
Was modest and fair;
She never fell into a pout or a fret;
And Mr. McNair
Was her only care
And indeed her only pet.
The few short hours he spent at his store
She spent sewing or reading the romancers’ lore;
And whoever came
It was always the same
With the modest lady that opened the door.
But there came to town
One Captain Brown
To spend a month or more.
Now this same Captain Brown
Was a man of renown,
And a dashing blue coat he wore;
And a bright, brass star.
And a visible scar
On his brow–that he said he had got in the war
As he led the van:
(He never ran!)
In short, he was the “General’s” right-hand man,
And had written his name on the pages of fame.
He was smooth as an eel,
And rode so genteel
That in less than a week every old maid and dame
Was constantly lisping the bold Captain’s name.
Now Mr. McNair,
As well as the fair,
Had a “bump of reverence” as big as a pear,
And whoever like Brown
Had a little renown,
And happened to visit that rural town,
Was invited of course by McNair–to “go down.”
So merely by chance,
The son of the lance
Became the bold hero of quite a romance:
For Mrs. McNair thought him wonderful fair,
And that none but her husband could with him compare.
Half her timidity vanished in air
The first time he dined with herself and McNair.
Now the Captain was arch
In whiskers and starch
And preferred, now and then, a gay waltz to a march.
A man, too, he was of uncommon good taste;
Always “at home” and never in haste,
And his manners and speech were remarkably chaste.
To tell you in short
His daily resort
He made at the house of “his good friend McNair,”
Who (’twas really too bad) was so frequently out
When the Captain called in “just to see _him_” (no doubt)
But Mrs. McNair was so lonely–too bad;
So he chatted and chattered and made her look glad.
And many a view
Of his coat of blue,
All studded with buttons gilt, spangled and new,
The dear lady took
Half askance from her book,
As she modestly sat in the opposite nook.
And modestly she
Talked nonsense and sense so strangely commingled,
That the dear lady’s heart was delighted and tingled.
A man of sobriety
Renown and variety
It could not be wrong to enjoy his society:
O was it a sin
For him to “drop in,”
And sometimes to pat her in sport on the chin?
Dear Ladies, beware;
Dear Ladies, take care–
How you play with a lion asleep in his lair:
“Mere trifling flirtations”–these arts you employ?
Flirtations once led to the siege of old Troy;
And a woman was in
For the sorrow and sin
And slaughter that fell when the Greeks tumbled in;
Nor is there a doubt, my dears, under the sun,
But they’ve led to the sack of more cities than one.
I would we were all
As pure as Saint Paul
That we touched not the goblet whose lees are but gall;
But if so we must know where a flirtation leads;
Beware of the fair and look out for our heads.
Remember the odious,
Frail woman, Herodias
Sent old Baptist John to a place incommodious,
And prevailed on her husband to cut off his head
For an indiscreet thing the old Nazarite said.
Day in and day out
The blue coat was about;
And the dear little lady was glad when he came
And began to be talkative, tender and tame.
Then he gave her a ring, begged a curl of her hair,
And smilingly whispered her–“don’t tell McNair.”
She dropped her dark eyes
And with two little sighs
Sent the bold Captain’s heart fluttering up to the skies.
What a pass!
He fell at the feet of the lady so sweet,
And swore that he loved her beyond his control–
With all his humanity–body and soul!
The lady so frail
Turned suddenly pale,
Then–sighed that his love was of little avail;
For alas, the dear Captain–he must have forgot–
She was tied to McNair with a conjugal knot.
Were she only a maid he alone could succeed;
But she prayed him by all that is sacred and fair,
Not to rouse the suspicion of Mr. McNair.
‘Twas really too bad,
For the lady was sad:
And a terrible night o’t the poor lady had,
While Mr. McNair wondered what was the matter,
And endeavored to coax, to console and to flatter.
Many tears she shed
That night while in bed
For she had such a terrible pain in her head!
“My dear little pet, where’s the camphor?” he said;
“I’ll go for the doctor–you’ll have to be bled;
I declare, my dear wife, you are just about dead.”
“O no, my dear;
I pray you don’t fear,
Though the pain, I’ll admit, is exceeding severe.
I know what it is–I have had it before–
It’s only neuralgia: please go to the store
And bring me a bottle of ‘Davis’s Pain-
Killer,’ and I shall be better again.”
He sprang out of bed
And away he sped
In his gown for the cordial to cure her head,
Not dreaming that Cupid had played her a trick–
The blind little rogue with a sharpened stick.
I confess on my knees
I have had the disease;
It is worse than the bites of a thousand fleas;
And the only cure I have found for these ills
Is a double dose of “Purgative Pills.”
He rubbed her head–
And eased it, she said;
And he shrugged and shivered and got into bed.
He slept and he snored, but the poor lady’s pain,
When her lord slept soundly, came on again.
It wore away
However by day
And when Brown called again she was smiling and gay;
But alas, he must say–to the lady’s dismay–
In the town of his heart he had staid out his stay,
And must leave for his regiment with little delay.
Now Mrs. McNair
Was tall and fair,
Mrs. McNair was slim,
But the like of Brown was so wonderful rare
That she could not part with him.
Indeed you can see it was truly a pity,
For her husband was just going down to the city,
And Captain Brown–
The man of renown–
Could console her indeed were he only in town.
So McNair to the city the next Monday hied,
And left bold Captain Brown with his modest young bride.
As the serpent did Eve
Most sorely deceive–
Causing old father Adam to sorrow and grieve,
And us, his frail children, tho’ punished and chidden,
To hanker for things that are sweet but forbidden–
The Captain so fair,
With his genius so rare,
Wound the web of enchantment round Mrs. McNair;
And alas, fickle Helen, ere three days were over,
She had sworn to elope with her brass-buttoned lover.
Like Helen, the Greek,
She was modest and meek,
And as fair as a rose, but a trifle too weak.
When a maid she had suitors as proud as Ulysses,
But she ne’er bent her neck to their arms or their kisses,
Till McNair he came in
With a brush on his chin–
It was love at first sight–but a trifle too thin;
For, married, the dreams of her girlhood fell short all,
And she found that her husband was only a mortal.
Dear ladies, betray us–
Fast and loose play us–
We’ll follow you still like bereaved Menelaus,
Till the little blind god with his cruel shafts slay us.
Cold-blooded as I am,
If a son of old Priam
Should break the Mosaic commands and defy ’em,
And elope with my “pet,” and moreover my riches,
I would follow the rogue if I went upon crutches
To the plains of old Troy without jacket or breeches.
But then I’m so funny
If he’d give up the money,
He might go to the dogs with himself and his “Honey.”
The lovers agreed
That the hazardous deed
Should be done in the dark and with very great speed,
For Mr. McNair–when the fellow came back–
Might go crazy and foolishly follow their track.
So at midnight should wait
At her garden-gate
A carriage to carry the dear, precious freight
Of Mrs. McNair who should meet Captain Brown
At the Globe Hotel in a neighboring town.
A man should be hired
To convey the admired.
And keep mum as a mouse, and do what was desired.
Wearily, wearily half the night
The lady watched away;
At times in a spirit of sadness quite,
But fully resolved on her amorous flight,
She longed to be under way;
Yet with sad heaving heart and a tear, I declare,
As she sorrowfully thought of poor Mr. McNair.
“Poor fellow,” she sighed,
“I wish he had died
Last spring when he had his complaint in the side
For I know–I am sure–it will terribly grieve him
To have me elope with the Captain and leave him.
But the Captain–dear me!
I hardly can see
Why I love the brave Captain to such a degree:
But see–there’s the carriage, I vow, at the gate!
I must go–’tis the law of inveterate fate.”
So a parting look
At her home she took,
While a terrible conflict her timid soul shook;
Then turned to the carriage heart-stricken and sore,
Stepped hastily in and closed up the door.
“Crack!” went the whip;
She bit her white lip,
And away she flew on her desperate trip.
She thought of dear Brown; and poor Mr. McNair–
She knew he would hang himself straight in despair.
And she cried
All during the ride,
And endeavored–alas, but she could not decide.
Three times she prayed;
Three times she essayed
To call to the driver for pity and aid–
To drive her straight
To her garden-gate,
And break the spell of her terrible fate.
But her tongue was tied–
She couldn’t decide,
And she only moaned at a wonderful rate.
No mortal can tell
“What might have befell,”
Had it been a mile more to the Globe Hotel;
But as they approached it she broke from her spell.
A single hair
For Mr. McNair
She vowed to herself that she did not care;
But the Captain so true
In his coat of blue–
To his loving arms in her fancy she flew.
In a moment or more
They drove up to the door,
And she felt that her trials and troubles were o’er.
The landlord came hastily out in his slippers,
For late he had sat with some smokers and sippers.
As the lady stepped down
With a fret and a frown,
She sighed half aloud, “Where is dear Captain Brown?”
“This way, my dear madam,” politely he said,
And straightway to the parlor the lady he led.
Now the light was dim
Where she followed him,
And the dingy old parlor looked gloomy and grim.
As she entered, behold, in contemplative mood,
In the farther corner the bold Captain stood
In his coat of blue:
To his arms she flew;
She buried her face in his bosom so true:
“Dear Captain!–my Darling!” sighed Mrs. McNair;
Then she raised her dark eyes and–Good Heavens’
Instead of the Captain ’twas–_Mr. McNair!_
She threw up her arms–she screamed–and she fainted;
Such a scene!–Ah the like of it never was painted.
Of repentance and pardon I need not tell;
Her vows I will not relate,
For every man must guess them well
Who knows much of the “married state.”
Of the sad mischance suffice it to say
That McNair had suspected the Captain’s “foul play;”
So he laid a snare
For the bold and the fair,
But he captured, alas, only Mrs. McNair;
And the brass-buttoned lover–bold Captain Brown–
Was nevermore seen in that rural town.
Is tall and fair;
Mrs. McNair is slim;
And her husband again is her only care–
She is wonderfully fond of him;
For now he is all the dear lady can wish–he
Is a captain himself–in the State militia.
(Hanford Lennox Gordon)
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Based on Keywords: persisted, heart-stricken, shrugged, militia, conjugal, camphor, menelaus, cold-blooded, garden-gate, timidity, elope