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#Unearthed: M. Quad On Skates

When you dig through skating history, you never know what you will unearth. In the spirit of cataloguing fascinating tales from skating history, #Unearthed is a once a month 'special occasion' on Skate Guard where fascinating writings by others that are of interest to skating history buffs are excavated, dusted off and shared for your reading pleasure. From forgotten fiction to long lost interviews to tales that have never been shared publicly, each #Unearthed is a fascinating journey through time. This month's #Unearthed is a quaint little tale that was originally published on June 2, 1875. It comes to you from a rural humour serial penned by Charles Bertrand Lewis for "The Danbury News" under the ironically skating appropriate pseudonym 'M. Quad'.


Illustration of Charles Bertrand Lewis

"You see," said my friend Reglet, as he cut a "pigeons-wing" on the glassy surface at the rink, went off on one foot and came circling around on the other - "you see, it is an exercise which brings all the muscles into play and must be healthy. In fact, Dio Lewis says it is better than riding on horseback!" - It looked so easy and so nice that I winked at the boy who had skates to lend, and he came over. "That's right, old boy!" called Reglet, as he sailed around with a handsome girl on each arm, and a lovely blonde hanging to his coat-tails. "I'll bet a hundred dollars that you'll learn all the flourishes within an hour." I was highly gratified at this expression of confidence in my ability, and I kept hurrying up the boy as he fastened on the skates. The impudent sauce-box said I had better strap on a pillow on the back of my head before I started out, but I passed the insinuation by in silent contempt. "Now, then," said Reglet, circling up with a dozen French flourishes, "the main thing is to have confidence in yourself. Strike right out like a pioneer getting away from a troop of wolves, and I'll bet a hundred to one you'll make a skater." I struck out. I struck in several other directions besides out. One foot went to the left, the other to the right, and I whirled around and sat down. The blonde young lady came up and said that I had made a capital hit, and the other two said that I was certain to combine grace with muscular effort when I got fairly started. I didn't feel much like starting out again, but I had to do it. Reglet helped me up again, said that he could already see an improvement in my health and warned me to shove my feet as I saw him do. I obeyed. The left foot shot out, leaving the right one some rods in the rear, and in trying to even up the race a little, something struck the ice. It was myself. The back of my head struck first, and there were five distinct shocks before the whole of my body got down. Reglet sailed up and said he never saw me beaten, and the blonde declared her belief that I was an old skater, and was just playing. The rink danced round and round as I sat up, and the small boy who was grinning at me appeared to my vision like eight or nine small boys, and eight or nine grins. "Come, old boy, this exercise will brighten your cheek until your own wife won't know you," called Reglet, offering to help me up. I wanted to go home and sit down behind the coal stove and ponder and reflect, but he dragged me to my feet and the blonde wanted to know if I wouldn't please to give them 'the Prince of Wales flourish'. I glanced at her and tried to smile and they all edged off to give me a fair show. "Come, dart right off!" yelled Reglet, and I carefully started my feet out on an exploring voyage. They hadn't travelled over six inches before they got ahead of my body. I reached out for something to support me, clawed around, and the back of my head dug a hole in the ice. I thought the roof of the rink had fallen in, and that twenty-eight tons of boards and shingles had struck me in a heap, but I was deceived. "You struck an air-bubble or you'd have made a splendid show," said Reglet, as he pulled at me. The blonde said that I had come within a hair's breadth of cutting one of the grandest flourishes known on ice, and they wanted me to try once more. I told 'em I had got to go to a funeral and that I would be back in half an hour, but it was no use. "See how easy it is," exclaimed Reglet, as he pushed out and swung one leg. I couldn't pull it back. I tried to, and I yelled to Reget that I'd give him fifty dollars to grab me. He was too late. I clawed, I waved, and tottered and fell; and when I came to my senses again, Reglet said that if I would go through the same performance every day for two months, he'd warrant me that I could eat a hundred hot biscuits per day and never have a touch of the dyspepsia. I am in bed yet, and a friend has written this from dictation. The doctor says that two ribs on the left side are fractured, the collar bone is broken, the bone of one elbow smashed, and the spinal column is three inches out of line; but he is labouring away in hopes of mending me up by spring.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating":