The broom, that peculiar weapon of all lonely and afflicted women, from the trembling virgin who grasps it to immolate a spider to the injured wife who rears it to admonish a drunken husband — the Broom! It was the sight of this formidable missile that made the pot-companions tremble. Their retreat became a route. With one brilliant attack, Betsy worried them over the grass plot and charged them through the gate.
"Now ye ornery fystes ever say tat house is hanted agin if ye dare!"
They went their ways, Jake cursing, Pete blowing and Chon endangering his blood vessels by a smothered fit of laughter.
"Te ornery fystes!" panted Betsy as she flung the broom away, and sank exhausted into a chair, beside the wondering Jacopo.
"Ornery fystes!" This phrase looks mysterious. The first word is a modification of "Ordinary" and is much used in the Land of Penn, to express the last extreme of worthlessness. A spavined horse; a Bank Director 'found out' in his little speculations; a lady of fashion, whose husband and lover come to fisty-cuffs, about her damaged reputation; a lawyer who pockets fees from both sides, and drives a smart trade between the Thief and the Bailiff; a sheriff elected to office by a certain party and sharing all the plunder with the hungry ones of the opposite party — these all, in Pennsylvania language are "ORNERY."
As to the cabalistic word, "Fyste" we know not whether it is German, Greek or Indian. Possibly it is Choctaw. It was once much in vogue in the German districts of Pennsylvania. It is said to have been applied in the first place, to those benevolent pilgrims, who journeying from the land of Plymouth Rock, enlightened the benighted Germans by a severe course of wooden nutmegs, horn flints and patent medicines.
"Tat Yankee fyste!" was the exclamation of a Berks County farmer who had been persuaded to purchase a Patent-Right of an Improved Wheel-barrow which was to go of itself; by gravitation as the Yankee candidly observed.
But those days are passed. New England from the fountain of her overflowing benevolence, no longer sends to ignorant Pennsylvania, her former goodly offering of Pedlars and Horse-Jockies. She sends us Preachers, Editors and Lawyers. They do not peddle — not they! Nor jockey? No, Sir ! Why our souls could not be saved, nor our minds enlightened, nor the course of Justice go forward, were it not for these Missionaries, sent to our benighted clime, by Old New England. In fact, every path that leads to eminence or pennies, is macadamized by flints from Plymouth Rock. They preach our sermons, they do our law, they publish our papers, they write our histories. Pennsylvania could not get on without them. And once a year they get together in some cozy hotel — as many of them as Society can spare — and amid a wilderness of chowder and punkin-pie, they drench themselves with Cider from Jersey and Blarney from Plymouth Rock. Persons there are, who pretend that New England keeps her Religion, her Intellect, her Liberality at Home, and only sends abroad her Fanaticism, her Stupidity and Meanness. These persons grossly err ; we all know that Pennsylvania like a worn out clock would stop forever, were she not wound up by a key, fashioned from the iron bolt of that New England gibbet on which they hung Quakers in good old times. Was it not a Boston Historian who told us the other day, that William Penn was only great, because he came of true blue Yankee stock ; a kind of Quaker mastodeon from the fossil region of Plymouth Rock?
The word "Fyste!" was once applied to the Pedlar and Jockey; now—
In this modern day, the word has undergone strange modifications. It has become a word of honor. It is no longer applied to the cheat, the blackguard and the vagabond. It is now used to designate the learned Judge who preaches Temperance from the Bench and sells licenses at the Back-Door. Or, the honorable Sheriff' who distributes "Tracts" before he is elected, and after his election pounces upon the possessions of the unfortunate debtor, feeding and gorging himself, even to the last shred, until you are reminded of a buzzard perched upon its festering prey. Or, the Politician who hungry for office, and sworn to have it at all hazards, prepares himself for his grave duties by a series of arduous exercises, such as Obscenity from the stump, Libel in the newspaper and Perjury everywhere.
These gentlemen are all known as "Fystes;" some of them, truth to tell, well deserve the full force of the vernacular, — " Ornery Fystes."