Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pipes in Literature: The Legend of the Pipe

The Legend of the Pipe

About 40 years ago, on one of those wet and dry evenings in the month of April, which are so common in some parts of Pennsylvania, and which may be called nondescript; for instead of being a regular and decent kind of weather, it continually flits about, and has more variations than a prismatic glass, or weathercock; for one moment, you will have a sousing rain that will soak you to the very skin, and then perhaps a sunny hour; but about the time you begin to enjoy its enlivening effect, and feel its cheering influence, you are saluted with a sharp skin-cutting north wind, accompanied by a mixture of rain and sleet, which comes as it were to destroy the equilibrium of the pericranium, and irritate us to the utmost, by playing with impunity, an unwelcome and discordant tune in our teeth:--Well, it was on one of these evenings that Hans Bradin was returning home from a trip to what was then Port Pitt, rather melancholy and depressed in spirits, on account of his bad luck that day in the sale of his produce, and was rendered pettish and irritable by the fluctuations of the weather. As night was a sneezing distance off, Hans was conscious that, in his present state of mind and body, it would be impossible for him to pass the Wizard's Cave which lay immediately in his way home, and which he would have to pass after nightfall; so to raise his spirits, he took a potation from an oddly constructed bottle, which he drew from a pocket made in his packsaddle expressly for its accommodation. By the bye, in those days, they made every thing to some purpose.--Having fortified himself he spurred forward his horse with increased courage, and spirits buoyed up by the "needful," till he came within an Irishman's mile of the cave, where, finding his spirits and courage flagging, he halted; and having refortified himself with many large potations, he again set forward. But the bottle is not always the true supporter of courage; so it was with Hans; for the nearer he approached the cave, the more his courage failed him. He tried to sing his song, and actually waded through the first verse without any very culpable aberration from the original, but the second was completely out of tune; from a proper pitch, it sunk down to a sort of quivering melody which perfectly coincided with the agitation of his body. "How cold it is," muttered Hans, his teeth making doleful music by chattering rather unneighbor-like against one another; "How cold it is," again muttered Hans. "A companion, even though an indifferent one, would be acceptable at such a time as this, for in an ill hour, bad company is better than none: if I could but whistle a tune now, I don't doubt but it would raise my spirits a little; but I'm so abominably chilled, that it's rather doubtful--I'll try however--it won't do; it's like smoking a pipe without fire or tobacco. Ugh! how cold it is! I shiver all over like an aspen leaf, and my teeth make as much noise as a wind-broken horse at a full gallop! I was never so cold in my life! my nose feels like a piece of ice--How unlucky I was to lose my pipe in town! If I had it now, I should be quite merry. Yes, it would make me as joyful as--as--a king. I wish I had one now; I'd give a dollar for one."

"What's that you say, Hans Bradin" said a strange, harsh voice. Hans knew it was the wizard that spoke, for he was directly opposite the cave; so he pretended he did'nt hear him, and looked or tried to look in another direction: but Venificus (that was the wizard's name,) was not accustomed to be slighted or put off; so he cried out again. Hans knew the penalty of making him angry, and turned round, and threw his eye-sight in the direction from whence the voice proceeded. He nearly fell from his horse; he was astounded at the sight of the wizard, ('twas the first time he ever saw him,) who withal was not a very disagreeably looking personage.--"When I looked round," in Hans' own words, "I saw a short, portly looking little man, with a very large abdomen, which was held up by a stout girdle of leather, ornamented with magic signs. His legs were short, and of such an immense thickness, that it was matter of surprise to me that he could walk. He had the smallest head I ever saw, set in, or rather buried between a pair of expansive shoulders; large grey eyes which shone like two balls of fire; a mouth every disproportionate to the size of his head, reaching from ear to ear, and a nose which was a very prominent one, and turned up in the form of a pot hook, and all these were nothing to his pipe. Heavens! what a pipe! It was the largest one in the world! it actually frightened me."

The little man was sitting on the top of his cave about thirty feet above where Hans was standing, and his pipe reached to the very road.The bowl was about the size of a hogshead, and would have contained with ease a barrel and a half of tobacco. The stem or tube was made of blue glass, which plainly told 'twas not fabricated on earth, and at the base or at the place it joined with the bowl, it was as thick as a man's body, and tapered off to a point of about two inches in diameter. I now no longer wondered at the reason of the wizard's mouth being so large. Venificus gave a sagacious gurgling at my astonishment; and repeated his former question. I scarcely knew what to answer, but knowing he would be displeased if I did'nt reply, I plumply told him what I wanted. "Oh! is that all, Hans Bradin, is tht all, that's not much; we shall contrive to furnish you with a pipe but hark'e, Hans, have you ever a pipe of tobacco about you, my pipe's almost out, and I'd like to have a small smoke before I go into my cave."--Hans was thunderstruck--a pipe full of tobacco--a small smoke--muttered he to himself. Hans had that day laid out all his money in tobacco for the old folk, and although he knew there was no tobacco at home, he did not hesitate, but liberally pitched up his whole stock to Venificus who received it with a frown as black as midnight, and exclaimed in a voice of thunder, "What, is it you, Hans Bradin, is it you! you! that offers me this little bit of tobacco! bad luck to you, do you think this will fill my pipe? here give me some, you son of the world, for this is not hear enough!" Hans trembling and affrighted, told him it was all he had, and related to him his ill luck that day at market, &c. Venificus had only pretended anger, to try Hans, and with one of his own laughs, he cast part of the tobacco into the pipe bowl; when lo! the little bit of tobacco, the mite, swelled up, up, up, and increased, and grew larger and larger, till the pipe was completely filled: it took fire of itself, and he began smoking. After he had done, he jumped up, said a few words which Hans could not understand, and the pipe disappeared. Venificus then came down, notwithstanding his corpulency, with as much agility as Hans could have done it himself. When he had come close up to Hans, he told him to follow, but not to speak a word till he was spoken to. He then led Hans into a long winding passage for a great distance, till he came to what seemed the end; here he stopped, lit a fire, and said a few words over it. The fire then died away, and a passage opened just where the fire was; down went the little man, down went Hans, and the passage closed behind them. They were now at the end of their journey. Hans looked round, and found himself in a large chamber. It seemed almost a mile square, and was completely filled with pipes of all sizes and descriptions, and according to the fashion, from every quarter of the globe. "Hans," said the wizard after Hans' astonishment had subsided, "you have acted like a wise and liberal man tonight, and I'm about to reward you. You see all these pipes? Well, now you may take your choice of them, and learn always to oblige every body; for if you had not acted as you have, I would have put you in my pipe, and smoked you up." Hans then made choice of the smallest pipe he could see; it was a glass one; and as soon as he had taken it, he stood looking on it abstractedly. "Hans," said Venificus, "you are afraid you will not have enough tobacco to fill the pipe, (it was as big as a bushel,) but don't be alarmed; here is a bit of what you gave me; when you go home, throw it in, you will soon see the effect, and never more want for tobacco." He then led Hans to the outside of the cave to his horse. Hans got on, and arrived safe at home that night.

The fame of the wonderful pipe spread through the country, all flocked to see it, but Hans would gratify the curiosity of none by telling the Legend of the pipe, till pressed by my solicitations and unwilling to disoblige an old friend, he confided to me the above, and his posterity to this day possess the wonderful pipe.

--from The Hesperus, and Western Miscellany, 1828
reprinted in Witches, Wraiths & Warlocks: Supernatural Tales of the American Renaissance

Thanks to friend Brer via email.

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