Taking the Census: “Answer a Fool According to His Folly”

We always take pleasure in copying the witty effusions of the Editor of the N.Y. Constellation — there is so much real Yankee in his writings. Ed.

From the New York Constellation.


SCENE — A House in the Country.

Inquisitor. Good mornings Madam. Is the head of the family at home?

Mrs. Touchwood. Yes, sir, I’m at home.

Inq. Hav’nt you a husband?

Mrs. T. Yes, sir, but he ant at the head of the family, I’d have you to know.

Inq. How many persons have you in your family?

Mrs. T. Why, bless me, sir, what’s that to you? You’re mighty inquisitive, I think.

Inq. I’m the man that takes the census.

Mrs. T. If you was a man in your senses, you would’nt ax such impertinent questions.

Inq. Don’t be affronted, old lady, but answer my questions as I ask them.

Mrs. T. “Answer a fool according to his folly” — you know what the scripture says. Old lady, indeed!

Inq. I beg pardon, Madam; but I don’t care about hearing Scripture just at this moment, I’m bound to go according to law and not according to gospel.

Mrs. T. I should think you wert neither according to law, nor gospel. What is it to you to inquire folkes affairs Mr. Thingambob?

Inq. The law makes it my business good woman, and if you don’t want to expose yourself to its penalties, you must answer my questions.

Mrs. T. Oh it’s the law is it? — That alters the case. But I should like to know what business the law has with people’s household matters.

Inq. Why Congress made the law, and if it dos’nt please you, you must talk to them.

Mrs. T. Talk to a fiddle stick! — Why, Congress is a fool, and you’re another.

Inq. Now, good lady, you’re a find looking woman, and if you’ll give me a few civil answers I’ll thank you. What I wish to know first is, how many persons there are in your family.

Mrs. T. Let me see, [Counting on her fingers] there’s I and my husband is one —

Inq. Are you always one?

Mrs. T. What’s that to you I should like to know. But I tell you if you don’t leave off interrupting me I wont say another word.

Inq. Well, take your own way, and be hanged to you.

Mrs. T. I will take my own way and no thanks to you. [Again counting on her fingers.] There’s I and my husband is one; there’s John, he’s two; Peter is three, Sue and Moll are four, and Thomas is five. And then there’s Mr. Jenkins and his wife and the two children is six; and there’s Jowler he’s seven.

Inq. Jowler! Who’s he?

Mrs. T. Who’s Jowler! Why who should he be but the old house dog?

Inq. It’s the number of persons I want to know.

Mrs. T. Very well, Mr. Flippergin, ant Jowler a person? Come here Jowler, and speak for yourself. I’m sure he’s as personal a dog as there is in the whole state.

Inq. He’s a very clever dog, no doubt. But it’s the number of human beings I want to know.

Mrs. T. Human! There ant a more human dog that ever breathed.

Inq. Well, but I mean the two-legged kind of beings.

Mrs. T. O, the two-legged is it? Well then, there’s the old rooster, he’s seven; the fighting cock is eight, and the bantam is nine —

Inq. Stop, stop, good woman, I beg of you. I don’t want to know the number of your fowls.

Mrs. T. I’m very sorry indeed I can’t please you, such a weet gentleman as you are. But didn’t you tell me ’twas the two-legged beings?

Inq. True, but I didn’t mean the hens.

Mrs. T. O, now I understand you. The old gobbler, he’s seven, the hen turkey is eight — and if you’ll wait a week there’ll be a parcel of young ones, for the old hen turkey is setting on a whole snarl of eggs.

Inq. D___n your turkies!

Mrs. T. O don’t now, good Mr. Hippersticher — I pray you don’t. — They’re as honest turkies as any in the country.

Inq. Don’t vex me any more. — I’m getting to be angry.

Mrs. T. Ha, ha, ha!

Inq. [Striding about the room in a rage.] Have a care, madam, or I shall fly out of my skin.

Mrs. T. If you do I don’t know who’ll fly in.

Inq. You do all you can to anger me. It’s the two-legged creatures who talk, that I have reference to.

Mrs. T. O, now I understand you. Well then, our Poll Parrot makes seven and the black girl eight.

Inq. I see you will have your own way.

Mrs. T. You have just found it out, have you? You’re a smart little man!

Inq. Have you mentioned the whole of your family?

Mrs. T Yes, sir that’s the whole — except the wooden-headed man in the other room.

Inq. Wooden-headed!

Mrs. T. Yes; the school-master, that’s boarding here.

Inq. I suppose if he has a wooden head, he lives without eating, and therefore must be a profitable boarder.

Mrs. T. O no, sir, you’re mistaken there. He eats like a leather judgment.

Inq. How many slaves are there belonging to the family?

Mrs. T. Slaves? Why there are no slaves but I and my husband.

Inq. What makes you and your husband slaves?

Mrs. T. I’m a slave to hard work and he’s a slave to rum. He does nothing all day but guzzle, guzzle, guzzle; while I’m working, tewing and sweating from morning till night, and from night till morning.

Inq. How many free colored persons have you?

Mrs. T. There’s nobody but Diana the black girl, Poll Parrot and my daughter Sue.

Inq. Is your daughter a colored girl?

Mrs. T. I guess you’d think so if you was to see her. She’s always out in the sun — and she’s tanned up as black as an Indian.

Inq. How many white males are there in your family under ten years of age?

Mrs. T. Why there ant none now — my husband don’t carry the mail since he’s taken to drink so bad. He used to carry two but they wasn’t white.

Inq. You mistake, good woman; I meant folks not leather mails.

Mrs. T.]Why, Let me see; there’s none except little Thomas, and Mr. Jenkins’ two little girls.

Inq. Males, I said, madam, not females.

Mrs. T. Well, If you don’t like the fe, you may leave it off.

Inq. How many white males are there between ten and twenty?

Mrs. T. Why there’s nobody but John and Peter; and John run away last week.

Inq. How many white males are there between twenty and thirty?

Mrs. T. Let me see — There’s the wooden-headed man is one, Mr. Jenkins and his wife is two, and the black girl is three.

Inq. No more of your nonsense, old lady; I’m heartily tired of it.

Mrs. T. Hoity toity! hav’nt I a right to talk as I please in my own house?

Inq. You must answer the questions as I put them.

Mrs. T. “Answer a fool according to his folly” — you’re right, Mister Hippogriti.

Inq. How many white males are there between thirty and forty?

Mrs. T. Why, there’s nobody but I and my husband — and he was forty last March.

Inq. As you count yourself among the males, I dare say you wear the breeches.

Mrs. T. Well, what if I do, Mr. Impertinence? is that any thing to you? mind your own business, if you please.

Inq. Certainly — I did but speak — How many white males are there between forty and fifty?

Mrs. T. None.

Inq. How many between fifty and sixty?

Mrs. T. None.

Inq. Are there any between this and a hundred!

Mrs. T. None except the old Gentleman.

Inq. What old gentleman? You hav’nt mentioned any before.

Mrs. T. Why, gramther Grayling — I thought every body knew gramther Grayling — he’s a hundred and two years old, come August, if he lives so long — and I dare say he will, for he’s got the dry wilt, and they say such folks never die.

The census man having inquired the number of females of the different ages, and received the like satisfactory answers, next proceeded to inquire the number of deaf and dumb persons.

Mrs. T. Why, there’s no deaf persons, excepting husband, and he ant so so deaf as he pretends to be. When any body asks him to take a drink of rum, it it’s only in a whisper he can hear quick enough. But if I tell him to fetch an armful of wood, or feed the pigs, or tent the griddle, he’s as deaf as a blockhorse.

Inq. How many dumb persons?

Mrs. T. Dumb! Why, there’s no dumb body in the house, except the wooden-headed man, and he never spoke unless he’s spoken to. — To be sure my husband wishes I was dumb, but he cant make it out.

Inq. Are there any manufactures carried on here?

Mrs. T. None to speak on; except turnip-sausages and tow cloth.

Inq. Turnip-sausages?

Mrs. T. Why yes, turnip sausages. Is there any thing so wonderful in that?

Inq. I never heard of them before. What kind of machinery is used in making them?

Mrs. T. Now you’re terribly inquisitive. What would you give to know?

Inq. Why I’ll give you the name of being the most communicative and pleasant woman I’ve met with the the last half hour.

Mrs. T. Well now you’re so sweet a gentleman, and I must gratify you. You must know we mix with the turnips a little red cloth, so that they needn’t look as if they was made of clear fat meat; then we chop them up well together, put in a little sage, summer savory, and black pepper; and then fill them into sheep’s inwards; and they make as pretty little delicate links as ever was set on a gentleman’s table, they fetch the highest price in the market.

Inq. Indeed!

Mrs. T. Yes, sir. Have you any thing more to ax?

Inq. Nothing more. Good morning madam.

Mrs. T. Stop a moment — can’t you think of something else? Do now, that’s a good man. Wouldn’t you like to know what we’re a going to have for dinner; or how many chickens our old hen hatched at the last brood; or how many —

Inq. Nothing more — nothing more.

Mrs. T. Here, just look in the cup-board, and see how many read ants there are in the sugar-bowl, I hav’nt time to count them myself.

Inq. Curse on your ants and all your relations! [Exit in a huff.]

Huron Reflector (Norwalk, Ohio) Jul 13, 1830

Other Census posts:

Look Out for the Census Man

Census Poetry

Curious Names

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