On Picket Duty and Other Tales HTML version

The King Of Clubs And The Queen Of Hearts
FIVE and twenty ladies, all in a row, sat on one side of the hall, looking very much as if
they felt like the little old woman who fell asleep on the king's highway and awoke with
abbreviated drapery, for they were all arrayed in gray tunics and Turkish continuations,
profusely adorned with many-colored trimmings. Five and twenty gentleman, all in a
row, sat on the opposite side of the hall, looking somewhat subdued, as men are apt to do
when they fancy they are in danger of making fools of themselves. They, also, were en
costume, for all the dark ones had grown piratical in red shirts, the light ones nautical in
blue; and a few boldly appeared in white, making up in starch and studs what they lost in
color, while all were more or less Byronic as to collar.
On the platform appeared a pile of dumb-bells, a regiment of clubs, and a pyramid of
bean-bags, and stirring nervously among them a foreign-looking gentleman, the new
leader of a class lately formed by Dr. Thor Turner, whose mission it was to strengthen the
world's spine, and convert it to a belief in air and exercise, by setting it to balancing its
poles and spinning merrily, while enjoying the "Sun-cure" on a large scale. His advent
formed an epoch in the history of the town; for it was a quiet old village, guiltless of
bustle, fashion, or parade, where each man stood for what he was; and, being a sagacious
set, every one's true value was pretty accurately known. It was a neighborly town, with
gossip enough to stir the social atmosphere with small gusts of interest or wonder, yet do
no harm. A sensible, free-and-easy town, for the wisest man in it wore the worst boots,
and no one thought the less of his understanding; the belle of the village went shopping
with a big sun-bonnet and tin pail, and no one found her beauty lessened; oddities of all
sorts ambled peacefully about on their various hobbies, and no one suggested the
expediency of a trip on the wooden horse upon which the chivalrous South is always
eager to mount an irrepressible abolitionist. Restless people were soothed by the lullaby
the river sang in its slow journey to the sea, old people found here a pleasant place to
make ready to die in, young people to survey the world from, before taking their first
flight, and strangers looked back upon it, as a quiet nook full of ancient legends and
modern lights, which would keep its memory green when many a gayer spot was quite
forgotten. Anything based upon common sense found favor with the inhabitants, and Dr.
Turner's theories, being eminently so, were accepted at once and energetically carried
out. A sort of heathen revival took place, for even the ministers and deacons turned
Musclemen; old ladies tossed bean-bags till their caps were awry, and winter roses
blossomed on their cheeks; school-children proved the worth of the old proverb, "An
ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," by getting their backs ready before the
burdens came; pale girls grew blithe and strong swinging their dumb namesakes; and
jolly lads marched to and fro embracing clubs as if longevity were corked up in those
wooden bottles, and they all took "modest quenchers" by the way.
August Bopp, the new leader of the class, was a German possessing but a small stock of
English, though a fine gynmast; and, being also a bashful man, the appointed moment