James Fenimore Cooper: The Deerslayer

13. Chapter XIII.

"An oaken, broken, elbow-chair;
A caudle-cup without an ear;
A battered, shattered ash bedstead;
A box of deal without a lid;
A pair of tongs, but out of joint;
A back-sword poker, without point;
A dish which might good meat afford once;
An Ovid, and an old

Thomas Sheridan, "A True and Faithful Inventory of the Goods
belonging to Dr. Swift," ll.i-6, 13-14.

No sooner did Deerslayer raise the pistols, than he turned to the Delaware and held them up for his admiration.

"Child gun," said the Serpent, smiling, while he handled one of the instruments as if it had been a toy."

"Not it, Sarpent; not it - 'twas made for a man and would satisfy a giant, if rightly used. But stop; white men are remarkable for their carelessness in putting away fire arms, in chists and corners. Let me look if care has been given to these."

As Deerslayer spoke, he took the weapon from the hand of his friend and opened the pan. The last was filled with priming, caked like a bit of cinder, by time, moisture and compression. An application of the ramrod showed that both the pistols were charged, although Judith could testify that they had probably lain for years in the chest. It is not easy to portray the surprise of the Indian at this discovery, for he was in the practice of renewing his priming daily, and of looking to the contents of his piece at other short intervals.

"This is white neglect," said Deerslayer, shaking his head, "and scarce a season goes by that some one in the settlements doesn't suffer from it. It's extr'ornary too, Judith - yes, it's downright extr'ornary that the owner shall fire his piece at a deer, or some other game, or perhaps at an inimy, and twice out of three times he'll miss; but let him catch an accident with one of these forgotten charges, and he makes it sartain death to a child, or a brother, or a fri'nd! Well, we shall do a good turn to the owner if we fire these pistols for him, and as they're novelties to you and me, Sarpent, we'll try our hands at a mark. Freshen that priming, and I'll do the same with this, and then we'll see who is the best man with a pistol; as for the rifle, that's long been settled atween us."

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