A Blow-Up

N EAR Battle, Mr. Peter Baker
Was Powder-maker,
Not Alderman Flower's flour, — the white that puffs
And primes and loads heads bald, or gray, or chowder,
Figgins and Higgins, Fippins, Filby, Crowder, —
Not vile apothecary's pounded stuffs,
But something blacker, bloodier, and louder,
Gun-powder!

This stuff, as people know, is semper
Eadem; very hasty in its temper —
Like Honour that resents the gentlest taps
Mere semblances of blows, however slight;
So powder fires, although you only p'rhaps
Strike light.
To make it, therefore, is a ticklish business,
And sometimes gives both head and heart a dizziness,
For as all human flash and fancy minders,
Frequenting fights and Powder-works well know,
There seldom is a mill without a blow
Sometimes upon the grinders.
But then — the melancholy phrase to soften,
Mr. B.'s mill transpired so very often!
And advertised — than all Price Currents louder,
" Fragments look up — there is a rise in Powder, "
So frequently, it caused the neighbours' wonder, —
And certain people had the inhumanity
To lay it all to Mr. Baker's vanity,
That he might have to say — " That was my thunder! "
One day — so goes the tale,
Whether, with iron hoof,
Not sparkle-proof,
Some ninny-hammer struck upon a nail, —
Whether some glow-worm of the Guy Faux stamp,
Crept in the building, with Unsafety Lamp —
One day this mill that had by water ground,
Became a sort of windmill and blew round.
With bounce that went in sound as far as Dover, it
Sent half the workmen sprawling to the sky;
Besides some visitors who gained thereby,
What they had asked — permission " to go over it! "
Of course it was a very hard and high blow,
And somewhat differed from what's called a flyblow
At Cowes' Regatta as I once observed,
A pistol-shot made twenty vessels start;
If such a sound could terrify oak's heart,
Think how this crash the human nerve unnerved.
In fact, it was a very awful thing, —
As people know that have been used to battle,
In springing either mine or mill, you spring
A precious rattle!
The dunniest heard it — poor old Mr. F.
Doubted for once if he was ever deaf;
Through Tunbridge town it caused most strange alarms,
Mr. and Mrs. Fogg,
Who lived like cat and dog,
Were shocked for once into each other's arms.
Miss M. the milliner — her fright so strong,
Made a great gobble-stitch six inches long;
The veriest quakers quaked against their wish:
The " Best of Sons " was taken unawares,
And kicked the " Best of Parents " down the stairs:
The steadiest servant dropped the China dish;
A thousand started, though there was but one
Fated to win, and that was Mister Dunn,
Who struck convulsively, and hooked a fish!

Miss Wiggins, with some grass upon her fork,
Tossed it just like a haymaker at work;
Her sister not in any better case,
For, taking wine,
With nervous Mr. Pyne,
He jerked his glass of Sherry in her face.
Poor Mistress Davy,
Bobbed off her bran-new turban in the gravy;
While Mr. Davy at the lower end,
Preparing for a Goose a carver's labour,
Darted his two-pronged weapon in his neighbour,
As if for once he meant to help a friend.

The nurse-maid telling little " Jack-a-Norey, "
" Bo-peep " and " Blue-cap " at the house's top,
Screamed, and let Master Jeremiah drop
From a fourth story!
Nor yet did matters any better go
With Cook and Housemaid in the realms below;
As for the Laundress, timid Martha Gunning,
Expressing faintness and her fear by fits
And starts, — she came at last but to her wits,
By falling in the ale that John left running.

Grave Mr. Miles, the meekest of mankind,
Struck all at once, deaf, stupid, dumb, and blind,
Sat in his chaise some moments like a corse,
Then coming to his mind,
Was shocked to find,
Only a pair of shafts without a horse.
Out scrambled all the Misses from Miss Joy's!
From Prospect House, for urchins small and big,
Hearing the awful noise,
Out rushed a flood of boys,
Floating a man in black, without a wig; —
Some carried out one treasure, some another, —
Some caught their tops and taws up in a hurry,
Some saved Chambaud, some rescued Lindley Murray, —
But little Tiddy carried his big brother!
Sick of such terrors,
The Tunbridge folks resolved that truth should dwell
No longer secret in a Tunbridge Well,
But to warn Baker of his dangerous errors;
Accordingly to bring the point to pass,
They called a meeting of the broken glass,
The shattered chimney pots, and scattered tiles,
The damage of each part,
And packed it in a cart,
Drawn by the horse that ran from Mr. Miles;
While Doctor Babblethorpe, the worthy Rector,
And Mr. Gammage, cutler to George Rex,
And some few more, whose names would only vex,
Went as a deputation to the Ex
Powder-proprietor and Mill-director.

Now Mr. Baker's dwelling-house had pleased
Along with mill-materials to roam,
And for a time the deputies were teased,
To find the noisy gentleman at home;
At last they found him with undamaged skin,
Safe at the Tunbridge Arms — not out — but Inn.

The worthy Rector, with uncommon zeal,
Soon put his spoke in for the common weal —
A grave old gentlemanly kind of Urban, —
The piteous tale of Jeremiah moulded,
And then unfolded,
By way of climax, Mrs. Davy's turban;
He told how auctioneering Mr. Pidding
Knocked down a lot without a bidding, —
How Mr. Miles, in fright, had given his mare;
The whip she wouldn't bear, —
At Prospect House, how Doctor Oates, not Titus,
Danced like Saint Vitus, —
And Mr. Beak, thro' Powder's misbehaving,
Cut off his nose whilst shaving; —
When suddenly, with words that seemed like swearing,
Beyond a Licenser's belief or bearing —
Broke in the stuttering, sputtering Mr. Gammage —
Who is to pay us, Sir — he argued thus,
" For loss of cus-cus-cus-cus-cus-cus-cus —
Cus-custom, and the dam-dam-dam-dam-damage?

Now many a person had been fairly puzzled
By such assailants, and completely muzzled;
Baker, however, was not dashed with ease —
But proved he practised after their own system,
And with small ceremony soon dismissed 'em,
Putting these words into their ears like fleas;
" If I do have a blow, well, where's the oddity?
I merely do as other tradesmen do,
You, Sir, — and you — and you!
I'm only puffing off my own commodity! "
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