The man that was used up by Edgar Allan Poe


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1850
THE MAN THAT WAS USED UP
A Tale of the Late Bugaboo and Kickapoo Campaign
by Edgar Allan Poe

Pleurez, pleurez, mes yeux, et fondez vous en eau!
La moitie de ma vie a mis l’autre au tombeau.
CORNEILLE

I CANNOT just now remember when or where I first made the
acquaintance of that truly fine-looking fellow, Brevet Brigadier
General John A. B. C. Smith. Some one did introduce me to the
gentleman, I am sure- at some public meeting, I know very well- held
about something of great importance, no doubt- at some place or other,
I feel convinced, whose name I have unaccountably forgotten. The truth
is- that the introduction was attended, upon my part, with a degree of
anxious embarrassment which operated to prevent any definite
impressions of either time or place. I am constitutionally nervous-
this, with me, is a family failing, and I can’t help it. In
especial, the slightest appearance of mystery- of any point I cannot
exactly comprehend- puts me at once into a pitiable state of
agitation.
There was something, as it were, remarkable- yes, remarkable,
although this is but a feeble term to express my full meaning- about
the entire individuality of the personage in question. He was,
perhaps, six feet in height, and of a presence singularly
commanding. There was an air distingue pervading the whole man,
which spoke of high breeding, and hinted at high birth. Upon this
topic- the topic of Smith’s personal appearance- I have a kind of
melancholy satisfaction in being minute. His head of hair would have
done honor to a Brutus,- nothing could be more richly flowing, or
possess a brighter gloss. It was of a jetty black,- which was also the
color, or more properly the no-color of his unimaginable whiskers. You
perceive I cannot speak of these latter without enthusiasm; it is
not too much to say that they were the handsomest pair of whiskers
under the sun. At all events, they encircled, and at times partially
overshadowed, a mouth utterly unequalled. Here were the most
entirely even, and the most brilliantly white of all conceivable
teeth. From between them, upon every proper occasion, issued a voice
of surpassing clearness, melody, and strength. In the matter of
eyes, also, my acquaintance was pre-eminently endowed. Either one of
such a pair was worth a couple of the ordinary ocular organs. They
were of a deep hazel exceedingly large and lustrous; and there was
perceptible about them, ever and anon, just that amount of interesting
obliquity which gives pregnancy to expression.
The bust of the General was unquestionably the finest bust I ever
saw. For your life you could not have found a fault with its wonderful
proportion. This rare peculiarity set off to great advantage a pair of
shoulders which would have called up a blush of conscious
inferiority into the countenance of the marble Apollo. I have a
passion for fine shoulders, and may say that I never beheld them in
perfection before. The arms altogether were admirably modelled. Nor
were the lower limbs less superb. These were, indeed, the ne plus
ultra of good legs. Every connoisseur in such matters admitted the
legs to be good. There was neither too much flesh nor too little,-
neither rudeness nor fragility. I could not imagine a more graceful
curve than that of the os femoris, and there was just that due
gentle prominence in the rear of the fibula which goes to the
conformation of a properly proportioned calf. I wish to God my young
and talented friend Chiponchipino, the sculptor, had but seen the legs
of Brevet Brigadier General John A. B. C. Smith.
But although men so absolutely fine-looking are neither as plenty as
reasons or blackberries, still I could not bring myself to believe
that the remarkable something to which I alluded just now,- that the
odd air of je ne sais quoi which hung about my new acquaintance,-
lay altogether, or indeed at all, in the supreme excellence of his
bodily endowments. Perhaps it might be traced to the manner,- yet here
again I could not pretend to be positive. There was a primness, not to
say stiffness, in his carriage- a degree of measured and, if I may
so express it, of rectangular precision attending his every
movement, which, observed in a more diminutive figure, would have
had the least little savor in the world of affectation, pomposity,
or constraint, but which, noticed in a gentleman of his undoubted
dimensions, was readily placed to the account of reserve, hauteur-
of a commendable sense, in short, of what is due to the dignity of
colossal proportion.
The kind friend who presented me to General Smith whispered in my
ear some few words of comment upon the man. He was a remarkable man- a
very remarkable man- indeed one of the most remarkable men of the age.
He was an especial favorite, too, with the ladies- chiefly on
account of his high reputation for courage.
“In that point he is unrivalled- indeed he is a perfect desperado- a
downright fire-eater, and no mistake,” said my friend, here dropping
his voice excessively low, and thrilling me with the mystery of his
tone.
“A downright fire-eater, and no mistake. Showed that, I should
say, to some purpose, in the late tremendous swamp-fight, away down
South, with the Bugaboo and Kickapoo Indians.” [Here my friend
opened his eyes to some extent.] “Bless my soul!- blood and thunder,
and all that!- prodigies of valor!- heard of him of course?- you
know he’s the man-”
“Man alive, how do you do? why, how are ye? very glad to see ye,
indeed!” here interrupted the General himself, seizing my companion by
the hand as he drew near, and bowing stiffly but profoundly, as I
was presented. I then thought (and I think so still) that I never
heard a clearer nor a stronger voice, nor beheld a finer set of teeth:
but I must say that I was sorry for the interruption just at that
moment, as, owing to the whispers and insinuations aforesaid, my
interest had been greatly excited in the hero of the Bugaboo and
Kickapoo campaign.
However, the delightfully luminous conversation of Brevet
Brigadier General John A. B. C. Smith soon completely dissipated
this chagrin. My friend leaving us immediately, we had quite a long
tete-a-tete, and I was not only pleased but really-instructed. I never
heard a more fluent talker, or a man of greater general information.
With becoming modesty, he forebore, nevertheless, to touch upon the
theme I had just then most at heart- I mean the mysterious
circumstances attending the Bugaboo war- and, on my own part, what I
conceive to be a proper sense of delicacy forbade me to broach the
subject; although, in truth, I was exceedingly tempted to do so. I
perceived, too, that the gallant soldier preferred topics of
philosophical interest, and that he delighted, especially, in
commenting upon the rapid march of mechanical invention. Indeed,
lead him where I would, this was a point to which he invariably came
back.
“There is nothing at all like it,” he would say, “we are a wonderful
people, and live in a wonderful age. Parachutes and
rail-roads-mantraps and spring-guns! Our steam-boats are upon every
sea, and the Nassau balloon packet is about to run regular trips (fare
either way only twenty pounds sterling) between London and
Timbuctoo. And who shall calculate the immense influence upon social
life- upon arts- upon commerce- upon literature- which will be the
immediate result of the great principles of electro-magnetics! Nor, is
this all, let me assure you! There is really no end to the march of
invention. The most wonderful- the most ingenious- and let me add,
Mr.- Mr.- Thompson, I believe, is your name- let me add, I say the
most useful- the most truly useful- mechanical contrivances are
daily springing up like mushrooms, if I may so express myself, or,
more figuratively, like- ah- grasshoppers- like grasshoppers, Mr.
Thompson- about us and ah- ah- ah- around us!”
Thompson, to be sure, is not my name; but it is needless to say that
I left General Smith with a heightened interest in the man, with an
exalted opinion of his conversational powers, and a deep sense of
the valuable privileges we enjoy in living in this age of mechanical
invention. My curiosity, however, had not been altogether satisfied,
and I resolved to prosecute immediate inquiry among my
acquaintances, touching the Brevet Brigadier General himself, and
particularly respecting the tremendous events quorum pars magna
fuit, during the Bugaboo and Kickapoo campaign.
The first opportunity which presented opportunity which presented
itself, and which (horresco referens) I did not in the least scruple
to seize, occurred at the Church of the Reverend Doctor Drummummupp,
where I found myself established, one Sunday, just at sermon time, not
only in the pew, but by the side of that worthy and communicative
little friend of mine, Miss Tabitha T. Thus seated, I congratulated
myself, and with much reason, upon the very flattering state of
affairs. If any person knew any thing about Brevet Brigadier General
John A. B. C. Smith, that person it was clear to me, was Miss
Tabitha T. We telegraphed a few signals and then commenced, soto voce,
a brisk tete-a-tete.
“Smith!” said she in reply to my very earnest inquiry: “Smith!- why,
not General John A. B. C.? Bless me, I thought you knew all about him!
This is a wonderfully inventive age! Horrid affair that!- a bloody set
of wretches, those Kickapoos!- fought like a hero- prodigies of valor-
immortal renown. Smith!- Brevet Brigadier General John A. B. C.!
Why, you know he’s the man-
“Man,” here broke in Doctor Drummummupp, at the top of his voice,
and with a thump that came near knocking the pulpit about our ears;
“man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live; he
cometh up and is cut down like a flower!” I started to the extremity
of the pew, and perceived by the animated looks of the divine, that
the wrath which had nearly proved fatal to the pulpit had been excited
by the whispers of the lady and myself. There was no help for it; so I
submitted with a good grace, and listened, in all the martyrdom of
dignified silence, to the balance of that very capital discourse.
Next evening found me a somewhat late visitor at the Rantipole
Theatre, where I felt sure of satisfying my curiosity at once, by
merely stepping into the box of those exquisite specimens of
affability and omniscience, the Misses Arabella and Miranda
Cognoscenti. That fine tragedian, Climax, was doing Iago to a very
crowded house, and I experienced some little difficulty in making my
wishes understood; especially as our box was next the slips, and
completely overlooked the stage.
“Smith!” said Miss Arabella, as she at comprehended the purport of
my query; “Smith?- why, not General John A. B. C.?”
“Smith!” inquired Miranda, musingly. “God bless me, did you ever
behold a finer figure?”
“Never, madam, but do tell me-”
“Or so inimitable grace?”
“Never, upon my word!- But pray, inform me-”
“Or so just an appreciation of stage effect?”
“Madam!”
“Or a more delicate sense of the true beauties of Shakespeare? Be so
good as to look at that leg!”
“The devil!” and I turned again to her sister.
“Smith!” said she, “why, not General John A. B. C.? Horrid affair
that, wasn’t it?- great wretches, those Bugaboos- savage and so on-
but we live in a wonderfully inventive age!- Smith!- O yes! great
man!- perfect desperado- immortal renown- prodigies of valor! Never
heard!” [This was given in a scream.] “Bless my soul! why, he’s the
man-”

“-mandragora
Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world
Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep
Which thou ow’dst yesterday!”

here roared our Climax just in my ear, and shaking his fist in my face
all the time, in a way that I couldn’t stand, and I wouldn’t. I left
the Misses Cognoscenti immediately, went behind the scenes
forthwith, and gave the beggarly scoundrel such a thrashing as I trust
he will remember till the day of his death.
At the soiree of the lovely widow, Mrs. Kathleen O’Trump, I was
confident that I should meet with no similar disappointment.
Accordingly, I was no sooner seated at the card-table, with my
pretty hostess for a vis-a-vis, than I propounded those questions
the solution of which had become a matter so essential to my peace.
“Smith!” said my partner, “why, not General John A. B. C.? Horrid
affair that, wasn’t it?- diamonds did you say?- terrible wretches
those Kickapoos!- we are playing whist, if you please, Mr. Tattle-
however, this is the age of invention, most certainly the age, one may
say- the age par excellence- speak French?- oh, quite a hero-
perfect desperado!- no hearts, Mr. Tattle? I don’t believe it!-
Immortal renown and all that!- prodigies of valor! Never heard!!- why,
bless me, he’s the man-”
“Mann?- Captain Mann!” here screamed some little feminine interloper
from the farthest corner of the room. “Are you talking about Captain
Mann and the duel?- oh, I must hear- do tell- go on, Mrs. O’Trump!- do
now go on!” And go on Mrs. O’Trump did- all about a certain Captain
Mann, who was either shot or hung, or should have been both shot and
hung. Yes! Mrs. O’Trump, she went on, and I- I went off. There was
no chance of hearing any thing farther that evening in regard to
Brevet Brigadier General John A. B. C. Smith.
Still I consoled myself with the reflection that the tide of
ill-luck would not run against me forever, and so determined to make a
bold push for information at the rout of that bewitching little angel,
the graceful Mrs. Pirouette.
“Smith!” said Mrs. P., as we twirled about together in a pas de
zephyr, “Smith?- why, not General John A. B. C.? Dreadful business
that of the Bugaboos, wasn’t it?- dreadful creatures, those
Indians!- do turn out your toes! I really am ashamed of you- man of
great courage, poor fellow!- but this is a wonderful age for
invention- O dear me, I’m out of breath- quite a desperado-
prodigies of valor- never heard!!- can’t believe it- I shall have to
sit down and enlighten you- Smith! why, he’s the man-”
“Man-Fred, I tell you!” here bawled out Miss Bas-Bleu, as I led Mrs.
Pirouette to a seat. “Did ever anybody hear the like? It’s Man-Fred, I
say, and not at all by any means Man-Friday.” Here Miss Bas-Bleu
beckoned to me in a very peremptory manner; and I was obliged, will
I nill I, to leave Mrs. P. for the purpose of deciding a dispute
touching the title of a certain poetical drama of Lord Byron’s.
Although I pronounced, with great promptness, that the true title
was Man-Friday, and not by any means Man-Fred yet when I returned to
seek Mrs. Pirouette she was not to be discovered, and I made my
retreat from the house in a very bitter spirit of animosity against
the whole race of the Bas-Bleus.
Matters had now assumed a really serious aspect, and I resolved to
call at once upon my particular friend, Mr. Theodore Sinivate; for I
knew that here at least I should get something like definite
information.
“Smith!” said he, in his well known peculiar way of drawling out his
syllables; “Smith!- why, not General John A. B. C.? Savage affair that
with the Kickapo-o-o-os, wasn’t it? Say, don’t you think so?-
perfect despera-a-ado- great pity, ‘pon my honor!- wonderfully
inventive age!- pro-o-digies of valor! By the by, did you ever hear
about Captain Ma-a-a-a-n?”
“Captain Mann be d-d!” said I; “please to go on with your story.”
“Hem!- oh well!- quite la meme cho-o-ose, as we say in France.
Smith, eh? Brigadier-General John A. B. C.? I say”- [here Mr. S.
thought proper to put his finger to the side of his nose]- “I say, you
don’t mean to insinuate now, really and truly, and conscientiously,
that you don’t know all about that affair of Smith’s, as well as I do,
eh? Smith? John A-B-C.? Why, bless me, he’s the ma-a-an-”
“Mr. Sinivate,” said I, imploringly, “is he the man in the mask?”
“No-o-o!” said he, looking wise, “nor the man in the mo-o-on.”
This reply I considered a pointed and positive insult, and so left
the house at once in high dudgeon, with a firm resolve to call my
friend, Mr. Sinivate, to a speedy account for his ungentlemanly
conduct and ill breeding.
In the meantime, however, I had no notion of being thwarted touching
the information I desired. There was one resource left me yet. I would
go to the fountain head. I would call forthwith upon the General
himself, and demand, in explicit terms, a solution of this
abominable piece of mystery. Here, at least, there should be no chance
for equivocation. I would be plain, positive, peremptory- as short
as pie-crust- as concise as Tacitus or Montesquieu.
It was early when I called, and the General was dressing, but I
pleaded urgent business, and was shown at once into his bedroom by
an old negro valet, who remained in attendance during my visit. As I
entered the chamber, I looked about, of course, for the occupant,
but did not immediately perceive him. There was a large and
exceedingly odd looking bundle of something which lay close by my feet
on the floor, and, as I was not in the best humor in the world, I gave
it a kick out of the way.
“Hem! ahem! rather civil that, I should say!” said the bundle, in
one of the smallest, and altogether the funniest little voices,
between a squeak and a whistle, that I ever heard in all the days of
my existence.
“Ahem! rather civil that I should observe.”
I fairly shouted with terror, and made off, at a tangent, into the
farthest extremity of the room.
“God bless me, my dear fellow!” here again whistled the bundle,
“what- what- what- why, what is the matter? I really believe you don’t
know me at all.”
What could I say to all this- what could I? I staggered into an
armchair, and, with staring eyes and open mouth, awaited the
solution of the wonder.
“Strange you shouldn’t know me though, isn’t it?” presently
resqueaked the nondescript, which I now perceived was performing
upon the floor some inexplicable evolution, very analogous to the
drawing on of a stocking. There was only a single leg, however,
apparent.
“Strange you shouldn’t know me though, isn’t it? Pompey, bring me
that leg!” Here Pompey handed the bundle a very capital cork leg,
already dressed, which it screwed on in a trice; and then it stood
upright before my eyes.
“And a bloody action it was,” continued the thing, as if in a
soliloquy; “but then one mustn’t fight with the Bugaboos and
Kickapoos, and think of coming off with a mere scratch. Pompey, I’ll
thank you now for that arm. Thomas” [turning to me] “is decidedly
the best hand at a cork leg; but if you should ever want an arm, my
dear fellow, you must really let me recommend you to Bishop.” Here
Pompey screwed on an arm.
“We had rather hot work of it, that you may say. Now, you dog,
slip on my shoulders and bosom. Pettit makes the best shoulders, but
for a bosom you will have to go to Ducrow.”
“Bosom!” said I.
“Pompey, will you never be ready with that wig? Scalping is a
rough process, after all; but then you can procure such a capital
scratch at De L’Orme’s.”
“Scratch!”
“Now, you nigger, my teeth! For a good set of these you had better
go to Parmly’s at once; high prices, but excellent work. I swallowed
some very capital articles, though, when the big Bugaboo rammed me
down with the butt end of his rifle.”
“Butt end! ram down!! my eye!!”
“O yes, by the way, my eye- here, Pompey, you scamp, screw it in!
Those Kickapoos are not so very slow at a gouge; but he’s a belied
man, that Dr. Williams, after all; you can’t imagine how well I see
with the eyes of his make.”
I now began very clearly to perceive that the object before me was
nothing more nor less than my new acquaintance, Brevet Brigadier
General John A. B. C. Smith. The manipulations of Pompey had made, I
must confess, a very striking difference in the appearance of the
personal man. The voice, however, still puzzled me no little; but even
this apparent mystery was speedily cleared up.
“Pompey, you black rascal,” squeaked the General, “I really do
believe you would let me go out without my palate.”
Hereupon, the negro, grumbling out an apology, went up to his
master, opened his mouth with the knowing air of a horse-jockey, and
adjusted therein a somewhat singular-looking machine, in a very
dexterous manner, that I could not altogether comprehend. The
alteration, however, in the entire expression of the General’s
countenance was instantaneous and surprising. When he again spoke, his
voice had resumed all that rich melody and strength which I had
noticed upon our original introduction.
“D-n the vagabonds!” said he, in so clear a tone that I positively
started at the change, “D-n the vagabonds! they not only knocked in
the roof of my mouth, but took the trouble to cut off at least
seven-eighths of my tongue. There isn’t Bonfanti’s equal, however,
in America, for really good articles of this description. I can
recommend you to him with confidence,” [here the General bowed,]
“and assure you that I have the greatest pleasure in so doing.”
I acknowledged his kindness in my best manner, and took leave of him
at once, with a perfect understanding of the true state of affairs-
with a full comprehension of the mystery which had troubled me so
long. It was evident. It was a clear case. Brevet Brigadier General
John A. B. C. Smith was the man- the man that was used up.
THE END

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