GAY GUINEAS PIGS AND MIDDLE-AGED, SCHEMING MONKEYS
Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans, and some western cities have buildings called museums, opined The New York Times, but they are mere theatrical attractions compared to Barnum’s American Museum in New York City. Make that Barnum’s former museum, since the occasion for the Time’s ode, was the destruction by fire of the amazing structure at the corner of Broadway and Ann. Forget that the Times also talked of its “ever patent humbuggery with which (it) coddled and cajoled a credulous people,” it was still an honorable institution.
The always staid Times ran the story of the fire under the following headline:
Total Destruction of Barnum’s American Museum.
Nine Other Buildings Burned to the Ground.
LOSS ESTIMATED AT $1,000,000.
A History of the Museum and Brief Sketch of its Curiosities.
Scenes Exciting, Serious, and Comic at the Fire.
The Police Prompt and Vigilant—The Firemen Earnest and Active.
GREAT EXCITEMENT IN THE CITY.
Thirty Thousand People in the Streets
Pickpockets in the Crowd
Accidents and Incidents.
THIRD FLOOR FAMOUS PETRIFICATION, THREE MEN OF EGYPT,
THE FOURTH FLOOR, THE HAPPY FAMILY, ORIGIN OF THE FIRE.
SCENE WITHIN THE MUSEUM, COMIC INCIDENTS, A FEARFUL PANIC.
PROGRESS OF THE CONFLAGRATION.
ARRIVAL OF THE METROPOLITAN POLICE.
THE FLAMES EXTENDING. CLOSING OF SHOPS.
THE FIRE CHECKED.
THIEVES ARRESTED. ACCIDENTS.
LOSS OF CURIOSITIES.
THE SUFFERERS AND THE LOSSES.
Leave the sensationalism to the Daily News and the Post.
From the Times Article:
On the floor above was a collection of “sassy” monkeys, subdued dogs, meek rats, fat cats, plump pigeons, sleepy owls, prickly porcupines, gay guinea pigs, crowing cocks, hungry hounds, big monkeys, little monkeys, monkeys of every degree of tail, old, grave, gray monkeys, young, rascally, mischievous monkeys, middle-aged, scheming monkeys, and a great many miserable, mangy monkeys. Those animals and other creatures may have been happy, but they didn’t smell nicely; they doubtless lived respectable, but their anti(c)s were not pleasant to look at, and, to tell the truth, they frequently fought fiercely, and were badly beaten for it. However, they are gone; all burned to death, roasted whole, with stuffing au naturel, and in view of their lamentable end we may well say, “Peace to their ashes.”
Death Visits Aunt Agatha, Part 1: She’d Plucked Her Last Chicken
Monty turned each adjective over in his mind, looking at it this way and that to see if it fit the woman who lay in the bed in front of him, wheezing rather than breathing, each little gasp seemingly her last. Yes, Monty’s 95-year-old Aunt Agatha looked pretty bad, and the doctor confirmed that she was pretty bad, dying actually. Within the week, he had said on Monday. It was now Friday and she didn’t look as though she’d see the weekend. Of course, one had to bear in mind that Aunt Agatha had looked gaunt, haggard, cadaverous for thirty years now. Farming had taken its toll.
Aunt Agatha was one of those farmers of the old school, toiling from dawn to dusk, sleeping when not toiling. Monty wasn’t. He was one of a new breed of PhD farmers, calculating crops rather than just growing things. He had come to the farm when his father had died. Aunt Agatha, his father’s older sister, couldn’t run the place herself, and Monty, having grown disillusioned with the corporate world, guessed he might give farming a go.
Now Aunt Agatha was ready to buy the farm, so to speak. She’d plucked her last chicken, milked her last cow. Monty wished she’d get on with it. Not that he disliked Aunt Agatha or anything like that. Her lasting into the weekend was an inconvenience, that’s all. He had important business that would take him to the city for several days. And she couldn’t be left alone.
He had thought about just leaving her alone but couldn’t bring himself to be quite that insensitive. He hated the idea, but guessed he would have to call that harpy, Bridget Berman. Bridget had once been, or at least claimed to have been, a nurse. For as far back as practically anyone could remember, however, she had made her living as a sitter for the dying, substituting for family members who were too busy or to squeamish to be with the departing. She stayed at bedside night and day, charging seventy-five dollars for each 24 hours of her deathwatch. She was a bent, used up old bitch, and many suggested that her sitting at your bedside could only hasten death.