By Stephen Leacock
MY FINANCIAL CAREER LORD OXHEAD'S SECRET BOARDING-HOUSE GEOMETRY THE AWFUL FATE OF MELPOMENUS JONES A CHRISTMAS LETTER HOW TO MAKE A MILLION DOLLARS HOW TO LIVE TO BE 200 HOW TO AVOID GETTING MARRIED HOW TO BE A DOCTOR THE NEW FOOD A NEW PATHOLOGY THE POET ANSWERED THE FORCE OF STATISTICS MEN WHO HAVE SHAVED ME GETTING THE THREAD OF IT TELLING HIS FAULTS WINTER PASTIMES NUMBER FIFTY-SIX ARISTOCRATIC EDUCATION THE CONJURER'S REVENGE HINTS TO TRAVELLERS A MANUAL OF EDUCATION HOODOO MCFIGGIN'S CHRISTMAS THE LIFE OF JOHN SMITH ON COLLECTING THINGS SOCIETY CHIT-CHAT INSURANCE UP TO DATE BORROWING A MATCH A LESSON IN FICTION HELPING THE ARMENIANS A STUDY IN STILL LIFE: THE COUNTRY HOTEL AN EXPERIMENT WITH POLICEMAN HOGAN THE PASSING OF THE POET SELF-MADE MEN A MODEL DIALOGUE BACK TO THE BUSH REFLECTIONS ON RIDING SALOONIO HALF-HOURS WITH THE POETS— I. MR. WORDSWORTH AND THE LITTLE COTTAGE GIRL II. HOW TENNYSON KILLED THE MAY QUEEN III. OLD MR. LONGFELLOW ON BOARD THE "HESPERUS" A. B, AND C
My Financial Career
When I go into a bank I get rattled. The clerks rattle me; the wickets rattle me; the sight of the money rattles me; everything rattles me.
The moment I cross the threshold of a bank and attempt to transact business there, I become an irresponsible idiot.
I knew this beforehand, but my salary had been raised to fifty dollars a month and I felt that the bank was the only place for it.
So I shambled in and looked timidly round at the clerks. I had an idea that a person about to open an account must needs consult the manager.
I went up to a wicket marked "Accountant." The accountant was a tall, cool devil. The very sight of him rattled me. My voice was sepulchral.
"Can I see the manager?" I said, and added solemnly, "alone." I don't know why I said "alone."
"Certainly," said the accountant, and fetched him.
The manager was a grave, calm man. I held my fifty-six dollars clutched in a crumpled ball in my pocket.
"Are you the manager?" I said. God knows I didn't doubt it.
"Yes," he said.
"Can I see you," I asked, "alone?" I didn't want to say "alone" again, but without it the thing seemed self-evident.
The manager looked at me in some alarm. He felt that I had an awful secret to reveal.
"Come in here," he said, and led the way to a private room. He turned the key in the lock.
"We are safe from interruption here," he said; "sit down."
We both sat down and looked at each other. I found no voice to speak.
"You are one of Pinkerton's men, I presume," he said.
He had gathered from my mysterious manner that I was a detective. I knew what he was thinking, and it made me worse.
"No, not from Pinkerton's," I said, seeming to imply that I came from a rival agency.
"To tell the truth," I went on, as if I had been prompted to lie about it, "I am not a detective at all. I have come to open an account. I intend to keep all my money in this bank."
The manager looked relieved but still serious; he concluded now that I was a son of Baron Rothschild or a young Gould.
"A large account, I suppose," he said.
"Fairly large," I whispered. "I propose to deposit fifty-six dollars now and fifty dollars a month regularly."
The manager got up and opened the door. He called to the accountant.
"Mr. Montgomery," he said unkindly loud, "this gentleman is opening an account, he will deposit fifty-six dollars. Good morning."
A big iron door stood open at the side of the room.
"Good morning," I said, and stepped into the safe.
"Come out," said the manager coldly, and showed me the other way.
I went up to the accountant's wicket and poked the ball of money at him with a quick convulsive movement as if I were doing a conjuring trick.
My face was ghastly pale.
"Here," I said, "deposit it." The tone of the words seemed to mean, "Let us do this painful thing while the fit is on us."
He took the money and gave it to another clerk.
He made me write the sum on a slip and sign my name in a book. I no longer knew what I was doing. The bank swam before my eyes.
"Is it deposited?" I asked in a hollow, vibrating voice.
"It is," said the accountant.
"Then I want to draw a cheque."
My idea was to draw out six dollars of it for present use. Someone gave me a chequebook through a wicket and someone else began telling me how to write it out. The people in the bank had the impression that I was an invalid millionaire. I wrote something on the cheque and thrust it in at the clerk. He looked at it.
"What! are you drawing it all out again?" he asked in surprise. Then I realized that I had written fifty-six instead of six. I was too far gone to reason now. I had a feeling that it was impossible to explain the thing. All the clerks had stopped writing to look at me.
Reckless with misery, I made a plunge.
"Yes, the whole thing."
"You withdraw your money from the bank?"
"Every cent of it."
"Are you not going to deposit any more?" said the clerk, astonished.
An idiot hope struck me that they might think something had insulted me while I was writing the cheque and that I had changed my mind. I made a wretched attempt to look like a man with a fearfully quick temper.
The clerk prepared to pay the money.
"How will you have it?" he said.
"How will you have it?"
"Oh"—I caught his meaning and answered without even trying to think—"in fifties."
He gave me a fifty-dollar bill.
"And the six?" he asked dryly.
"In sixes," I said.
He gave it me and I rushed out.
As the big door swung behind me I caught the echo of a roar of laughter that went up to the ceiling of the bank. Since then I bank no more. I keep my money in cash in my trousers pocket and my savings in silver dollars in a sock.
Lord Oxhead's Secret
A ROMANCE IN ONE CHAPTER
It was finished. Ruin had come. Lord Oxhead sat gazing fixedly at the library fire. Without, the wind soughed (or sogged) around the turrets of Oxhead Towers, the seat of the Oxhead family. But the old earl heeded not the sogging of the wind around his seat. He was too absorbed.
Before him lay a pile of blue papers with printed headings. From time to time he turned them over in his hands and replaced them on the table with a groan. To the earl they meant ruin—absolute, irretrievable ruin, and with it the loss of his stately home that had been the pride of the Oxheads for generations. More than that—the world would now know the awful secret of his life.
The earl bowed his head in the bitterness of his sorrow, for he came of a proud stock. About him hung the portraits of his ancestors. Here on the right an Oxhead who had broken his lance at Crecy, or immediately before it. There McWhinnie Oxhead who had ridden madly from the stricken field of Flodden to bring to the affrighted burghers of Edinburgh all the tidings that he had been able to gather in passing the battlefield. Next him hung the dark half Spanish face of Sir Amyas Oxhead of Elizabethan days whose pinnace was the first to dash to Plymouth with the news that the English fleet, as nearly as could be judged from a reasonable distance, seemed about to grapple with the Spanish Armada. Below this, the two Cavalier brothers, Giles and Everard Oxhead, who had sat in the oak with Charles II. Then to the right again the portrait of Sir Ponsonby Oxhead who had fought with Wellington in Spain, and been dismissed for it.
Immediately before the earl as he sat was the family escutcheon emblazoned above the mantelpiece. A child might read the simplicity of its proud significance—an ox rampant quartered in a field of gules with a pike dexter and a dog intermittent in a plain parallelogram right centre, with the motto, "Hic, haec, hoc, hujus, hujus, hujus."
* * * * *
"Father!"—The girl's voice rang clear through the half light of the wainscoted library. Gwendoline Oxhead had thrown herself about the earl's neck. The girl was radiant with happiness. Gwendoline was a beautiful girl of thirty-three, typically English in the freshness of her girlish innocence. She wore one of those charming walking suits of brown holland so fashionable among the aristocracy of England, while a rough leather belt encircled her waist in a single sweep. She bore herself with that sweet simplicity which was her greatest charm. She was probably more simple than any girl of her age for miles around. Gwendoline was the pride of her father's heart, for he saw reflected in her the qualities of his race.
"Father," she said, a blush mantling her fair face, "I am so happy, oh so happy; Edwin has asked me to be his wife, and we have plighted our troth—at least if you consent. For I will never marry without my father's warrant," she added, raising her head proudly; "I am too much of an Oxhead for that."
Then as she gazed into the old earl's stricken face, the girl's mood changed at once. "Father," she cried, "father, are you ill? What is it? Shall I ring?" As she spoke Gwendoline reached for the heavy bell-rope that hung beside the wall, but the earl, fearful that her frenzied efforts might actually make it ring, checked her hand. "I am, indeed, deeply troubled," said Lord Oxhead, "but of that anon. Tell me first what is this news you bring. I hope, Gwendoline, that your choice has been worthy of an Oxhead, and that he to whom you have plighted your troth will be worthy to bear our motto with his own." And, raising his eyes to the escutcheon before him, the earl murmured half unconsciously, "Hic, haec, hoc, hujus, hujus, hujus," breathing perhaps a prayer as many of his ancestors had done before him that he might never forget it.
"Father," continued Gwendoline, half timidly, "Edwin is an American."
"You surprise me indeed," answered Lord Oxhead; "and yet," he continued, turning to his daughter with the courtly grace that marked the nobleman of the old school, "why should we not respect and admire the Americans? Surely there have been great names among them. Indeed, our ancestor Sir Amyas Oxhead was, I think, married to Pocahontas—at least if not actually married"—the earl hesitated a moment.
"At least they loved one another," said Gwendoline simply.
"Precisely," said the earl, with relief, "they loved one another, yes, exactly." Then as if musing to himself, "Yes, there have been great Americans. Bolivar was an American. The two Washingtons—George and Booker—are both Americans. There have been others too, though for the moment I do not recall their names. But tell me, Gwendoline, this Edwin of yours—where is his family seat?"
"It is at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, father."
"Ah! say you so?" rejoined the earl, with rising interest. "Oshkosh is, indeed, a grand old name. The Oshkosh are a Russian family. An Ivan Oshkosh came to England with Peter the Great and married my ancestress. Their descendant in the second degree once removed, Mixtup Oshkosh, fought at the burning of Moscow and later at the sack of Salamanca and the treaty of Adrianople. And Wisconsin too," the old nobleman went on, his features kindling with animation, for he had a passion for heraldry, genealogy, chronology, and commercial geography; "the Wisconsins, or better, I think, the Guisconsins, are of old blood. A Guisconsin followed Henry I to Jerusalem and rescued my ancestor Hardup Oxhead from the Saracens. Another Guisconsin..."
"Nay, father," said Gwendoline, gently interrupting, "Wisconsin is not Edwin's own name: that is, I believe, the name of his estate. My lover's name is Edwin Einstein."
"Einstein," repeated the earl dubiously—"an Indian name perhaps; yet the Indians are many of them of excellent family. An ancestor of mine..."
"Father," said Gwendoline, again interrupting, "here is a portrait of Edwin. Judge for yourself if he be noble." With this she placed in her father's hand an American tin-type, tinted in pink and brown. The picture represented a typical specimen of American manhood of that Anglo-Semitic type so often seen in persons of mixed English and Jewish extraction. The figure was well over five feet two inches in height and broad in proportion. The graceful sloping shoulders harmonized with the slender and well-poised waist, and with a hand pliant and yet prehensile. The pallor of the features was relieved by a drooping black moustache.
Such was Edwin Einstein to whom Gwendoline's heart, if not her hand, was already affianced. Their love had been so simple and yet so strange. It seemed to Gwendoline that it was but a thing of yesterday, and yet in reality they had met three weeks ago. Love had drawn them irresistibly together. To Edwin the fair English girl with her old name and wide estates possessed a charm that he scarcely dared confess to himself. He determined to woo her. To Gwendoline there was that in Edwin's bearing, the rich jewels that he wore, the vast fortune that rumour ascribed to him, that appealed to something romantic and chivalrous in her nature. She loved to hear him speak of stocks and bonds, corners and margins, and his father's colossal business. It all seemed so noble and so far above the sordid lives of the people about her. Edwin, too, loved to hear the girl talk of her father's estates, of the diamond-hilted sword that the saladin had given, or had lent, to her ancestor hundreds of years ago. Her description of her father, the old earl, touched something romantic in Edwin's generous heart. He was never tired of asking how old he was, was he robust, did a shock, a sudden shock, affect him much? and so on. Then had come the evening that Gwendoline loved to live over and over again in her mind when Edwin had asked her in his straightforward, manly way, whether—subject to certain written stipulations to be considered later—she would be his wife: and she, putting her hand confidingly in his hand, answered simply, that—subject to the consent of her father and pending always the necessary legal formalities and inquiries—she would.
It had all seemed like a dream: and now Edwin Einstein had come in person to ask her hand from the earl, her father. Indeed, he was at this moment in the outer hall testing the gold leaf in the picture-frames with his pen-knife while waiting for his affianced to break the fateful news to Lord Oxhead.
Gwendoline summoned her courage for a great effort. "Papa," she said, "there is one other thing that it is fair to tell you. Edwin's father is in business."
The earl started from his seat in blank amazement. "In business!" he repeated, "the father of the suitor of the daughter of an Oxhead in business! My daughter the step-daughter of the grandfather of my grandson! Are you mad, girl? It is too much, too much!"
"But, father," pleaded the beautiful girl in anguish, "hear me. It is Edwin's father—Sarcophagus Einstein, senior—not Edwin himself. Edwin does nothing. He has never earned a penny. He is quite unable to support himself. You have only to see him to believe it. Indeed, dear father, he is just like us. He is here now, in this house, waiting to see you. If it were not for his great wealth..."
"Girl," said the earl sternly, "I care not for the man's riches. How much has he?"
"Fifteen million two hundred and fifty thousand dollars," answered Gwendoline. Lord Oxhead leaned his head against the mantelpiece. His mind was in a whirl. He was trying to calculate the yearly interest on fifteen and a quarter million dollars at four and a half per cent reduced to pounds, shillings, and pence. It was bootless. His brain, trained by long years of high living and plain thinking, had become too subtle, too refined an instrument for arithmetic...
* * * * *
At this moment the door opened and Edwin Einstein stood before the earl. Gwendoline never forgot what happened. Through her life the picture of it haunted her—her lover upright at the door, his fine frank gaze fixed inquiringly on the diamond pin in her father's necktie, and he, her father, raising from the mantelpiece a face of agonized amazement.
"You! You!" he gasped. For a moment he stood to his full height, swaying and groping in the air, then fell prostrate his full length upon the floor. The lovers rushed to his aid. Edwin tore open his neckcloth and plucked aside his diamond pin to give him air. But it was too late. Earl Oxhead had breathed his last. Life had fled. The earl was extinct. That is to say, he was dead.
The reason of his death was never known. Had the sight of Edwin killed him? It might have. The old family doctor, hurriedly summoned, declared his utter ignorance. This, too, was likely. Edwin himself could explain nothing. But it was observed that after the earl's death and his marriage with Gwendoline he was a changed man; he dressed better, talked much better English.
The wedding itself was quiet, almost sad. At Gwendoline's request there was no wedding breakfast, no bridesmaids, and no reception, while Edwin, respecting his bride's bereavement, insisted that there should be no best man, no flowers, no presents, and no honeymoon.
Thus Lord Oxhead's secret died with him. It was probably too complicated to be interesting anyway.
DEFINITIONS AND AXIOMS
All boarding-houses are the same boarding-house.
Boarders in the same boarding-house and on the same flat are equal to one another.
A single room is that which has no parts and no magnitude.
The landlady of a boarding-house is a parallelogram—that is, an oblong angular figure, which cannot be described, but which is equal to anything.
A wrangle is the disinclination of two boarders to each other that meet together but are not in the same line.
All the other rooms being taken, a single room is said to be a double room.
POSTULATES AND PROPOSITIONS
A pie may be produced any number of times.
The landlady can be reduced to her lowest terms by a series of propositions.
A bee line may be made from any boarding-house to any other boarding-house.
The clothes of a boarding-house bed, though produced ever so far both ways, will not meet.
Any two meals at a boarding-house are together less than two square meals.
If from the opposite ends of a boarding-house a line be drawn passing through all the rooms in turn, then the stovepipe which warms the boarders will lie within that line.
On the same bill and on the same side of it there should not be two charges for the same thing.
If there be two boarders on the same flat, and the amount of side of the one be equal to the amount of side of the other, each to each, and the wrangle between one boarder and the landlady be equal to the wrangle between the landlady and the other, then shall the weekly bills of the two boarders be equal also, each to each.
For if not, let one bill be the greater.
Then the other bill is less than it might have been—which is absurd.
The Awful Fate of Melpomenus Jones
Some people—not you nor I, because we are so awfully self-possessed—but some people, find great difficulty in saying good-bye when making a call or spending the evening. As the moment draws near when the visitor feels that he is fairly entitled to go away he rises and says abruptly, "Well, I think I..." Then the people say, "Oh, must you go now? Surely it's early yet!" and a pitiful struggle ensues.
I think the saddest case of this kind of thing that I ever knew was that of my poor friend Melpomenus Jones, a curate—such a dear young man, and only twenty-three! He simply couldn't get away from people. He was too modest to tell a lie, and too religious to wish to appear rude. Now it happened that he went to call on some friends of his on the very first afternoon of his summer vacation. The next six weeks were entirely his own—absolutely nothing to do. He chatted awhile, drank two cups of tea, then braced himself for the effort and said suddenly:
"Well, I think I..."
But the lady of the house said, "Oh, no! Mr. Jones, can't you really stay a little longer?"
Jones was always truthful. "Oh, yes," he said, "of course, I—er—can stay."
"Then please don't go."
He stayed. He drank eleven cups of tea. Night was falling. He rose again.
"Well now," he said shyly, "I think I really..."
"You must go?" said the lady politely. "I thought perhaps you could have stayed to dinner..."
"Oh well, so I could, you know," Jones said, "if..."
"Then please stay, I'm sure my husband will be delighted."
"All right," he said feebly, "I'll stay," and he sank back into his chair, just full of tea, and miserable.
Papa came home. They had dinner. All through the meal Jones sat planning to leave at eight-thirty. All the family wondered whether Mr. Jones was stupid and sulky, or only stupid.
After dinner mamma undertook to "draw him out," and showed him photographs. She showed him all the family museum, several gross of them—photos of papa's uncle and his wife, and mamma's brother and his little boy, an awfully interesting photo of papa's uncle's friend in his Bengal uniform, an awfully well-taken photo of papa's grandfather's partner's dog, and an awfully wicked one of papa as the devil for a fancy-dress ball. At eight-thirty Jones had examined seventy-one photographs. There were about sixty-nine more that he hadn't. Jones rose.
"I must say good night now," he pleaded.
"Say good night!" they said, "why it's only half-past eight! Have you anything to do?"
"Nothing," he admitted, and muttered something about staying six weeks, and then laughed miserably.
Just then it turned out that the favourite child of the family, such a dear little romp, had hidden Mr. Jones's hat; so papa said that he must stay, and invited him to a pipe and a chat. Papa had the pipe and gave Jones the chat, and still he stayed. Every moment he meant to take the plunge, but couldn't. Then papa began to get very tired of Jones, and fidgeted and finally said, with jocular irony, that Jones had better stay all night, they could give him a shake-down. Jones mistook his meaning and thanked him with tears in his eyes, and papa put Jones to bed in the spare room and cursed him heartily.
After breakfast next day, papa went off to his work in the City, and left Jones playing with the baby, broken-hearted. His nerve was utterly gone. He was meaning to leave all day, but the thing had got on his mind and he simply couldn't. When papa came home in the evening he was surprised and chagrined to find Jones still there. He thought to jockey him out with a jest, and said he thought he'd have to charge him for his board, he! he! The unhappy young man stared wildly for a moment, then wrung papa's hand, paid him a month's board in advance, and broke down and sobbed like a child.
In the days that followed he was moody and unapproachable. He lived, of course, entirely in the drawing-room, and the lack of air and exercise began to tell sadly on his health. He passed his time in drinking tea and looking at the photographs. He would stand for hours gazing at the photographs of papa's uncle's friend in his Bengal uniform—talking to it, sometimes swearing bitterly at it. His mind was visibly failing.
At length the crash came. They carried him upstairs in a raging delirium of fever. The illness that followed was terrible. He recognized no one, not even papa's uncle's friend in his Bengal uniform. At times he would start up from his bed and shriek, "Well, I think I..." and then fall back upon the pillow with a horrible laugh. Then, again, he would leap up and cry, "Another cup of tea and more photographs! More photographs! Har! Har!"
At length, after a month of agony, on the last day of his vacation, he passed away. They say that when the last moment came, he sat up in bed with a beautiful smile of confidence playing upon his face, and said, "Well—the angels are calling me; I'm afraid I really must go now. Good afternoon."
And the rushing of his spirit from its prison-house was as rapid as a hunted cat passing over a garden fence.
A Christmas Letter
(In answer to a young lady who has sent an invitation to be present at a children's party)
Allow me very gratefully but firmly to refuse your kind invitation. You doubtless mean well; but your ideas are unhappily mistaken.
Let us understand one another once and for all. I cannot at my mature age participate in the sports of children with such abandon as I could wish. I entertain, and have always entertained, the sincerest regard for such games as Hunt-the-Slipper and Blind-Man's Buff. But I have now reached a time of life, when, to have my eyes blindfolded and to have a powerful boy of ten hit me in the back with a hobby-horse and ask me to guess who hit me, provokes me to a fit of retaliation which could only culminate in reckless criminality. Nor can I cover my shoulders with a drawing-room rug and crawl round on my hands and knees under the pretence that I am a bear without a sense of personal insufficiency, which is painful to me.
Neither can I look on with a complacent eye at the sad spectacle of your young clerical friend, the Reverend Mr. Uttermost Farthing, abandoning himself to such gambols and appearing in the role of life and soul of the evening. Such a degradation of his holy calling grieves me, and I cannot but suspect him of ulterior motives.
You inform me that your maiden aunt intends to help you to entertain the party. I have not, as you know, the honour of your aunt's acquaintance, yet I think I may with reason surmise that she will organize games—guessing games—in which she will ask me to name a river in Asia beginning with a Z; on my failure to do so she will put a hot plate down my neck as a forfeit, and the children will clap their hands. These games, my dear young friend, involve the use of a more adaptable intellect than mine, and I cannot consent to be a party to them.
May I say in conclusion that I do not consider a five-cent pen-wiper from the top branch of a Xmas tree any adequate compensation for the kind of evening you propose.
I have the honour To subscribe myself, Your obedient servant.
How to Make a Million Dollars
I mix a good deal with the Millionaires. I like them. I like their faces. I like the way they live. I like the things they eat. The more we mix together the better I like the things we mix.
Especially I like the way they dress, their grey check trousers, their white check waist-coats, their heavy gold chains, and the signet-rings that they sign their cheques with. My! they look nice. Get six or seven of them sitting together in the club and it's a treat to see them. And if they get the least dust on them, men come and brush it off. Yes, and are glad to. I'd like to take some of the dust off them myself.
Even more than what they eat I like their intellectual grasp. It is wonderful. Just watch them read. They simply read all the time. Go into the club at any hour and you'll see three or four of them at it. And the things they can read! You'd think that a man who'd been driving hard in the office from eleven o'clock until three, with only an hour and a half for lunch, would be too fagged. Not a bit. These men can sit down after office hours and read the Sketch and the Police Gazette and the Pink Un, and understand the jokes just as well as I can.
What I love to do is to walk up and down among them and catch the little scraps of conversation. The other day I heard one lean forward and say, "Well, I offered him a million and a half and said I wouldn't give a cent more, he could either take it or leave it—" I just longed to break in and say, "What! what! a million and a half! Oh! say that again! Offer it to me, to either take it or leave it. Do try me once: I know I can: or here, make it a plain million and let's call it done."
Not that these men are careless over money. No, sir. Don't think it. Of course they don't take much account of big money, a hundred thousand dollars at a shot or anything of that sort. But little money. You've no idea till you know them how anxious they get about a cent, or half a cent, or less.
Why, two of them came into the club the other night just frantic with delight: they said wheat had risen and they'd cleaned up four cents each in less than half an hour. They bought a dinner for sixteen on the strength of it. I don't understand it. I've often made twice as much as that writing for the papers and never felt like boasting about it.
One night I heard one man say, "Well, let's call up New York and offer them a quarter of a cent." Great heavens! Imagine paying the cost of calling up New York, nearly five million people, late at night and offering them a quarter of a cent! And yet—did New York get mad? No, they took it. Of course it's high finance. I don't pretend to understand it. I tried after that to call up Chicago and offer it a cent and a half, and to call up Hamilton, Ontario, and offer it half a dollar, and the operator only thought I was crazy.
All this shows, of course, that I've been studying how the millionaires do it. I have. For years. I thought it might be helpful to young men just beginning to work and anxious to stop.
You know, many a man realizes late in life that if when he was a boy he had known what he knows now, instead of being what he is he might be what he won't; but how few boys stop to think that if they knew what they don't know instead of being what they will be, they wouldn't be? These are awful thoughts.
At any rate, I've been gathering hints on how it is they do it.
One thing I'm sure about. If a young man wants to make a million dollars he's got to be mighty careful about his diet and his living. This may seem hard. But success is only achieved with pains.
There is no use in a young man who hopes to make a million dollars thinking he's entitled to get up at 7.30, eat force and poached eggs, drink cold water at lunch, and go to bed at 10 p.m. You can't do it. I've seen too many millionaires for that. If you want to be a millionaire you mustn't get up till ten in the morning. They never do. They daren't. It would be as much as their business is worth if they were seen on the street at half-past nine.
And the old idea of abstemiousness is all wrong. To be a millionaire you need champagne, lots of it and all the time. That and Scotch whisky and soda: you have to sit up nearly all night and drink buckets of it. This is what clears the brain for business next day. I've seen some of these men with their brains so clear in the morning, that their faces look positively boiled.
To live like this requires, of course, resolution. But you can buy that by the pint.
Therefore, my dear young man, if you want to get moved on from your present status in business, change your life. When your landlady brings your bacon and eggs for breakfast, throw them out of window to the dog and tell her to bring you some chilled asparagus and a pint of Moselle. Then telephone to your employer that you'll be down about eleven o'clock. You will get moved on. Yes, very quickly.
Just how the millionaires make the money is a difficult question. But one way is this. Strike the town with five cents in your pocket. They nearly all do this; they've told me again and again (men with millions and millions) that the first time they struck town they had only five cents. That seems to have given them their start. Of course, it's not easy to do. I've tried it several times. I nearly did it once. I borrowed five cents, carried it away out of town, and then turned and came back at the town with an awful rush. If I hadn't struck a beer saloon in the suburbs and spent the five cents I might have been rich to-day.
Another good plan is to start something. Something on a huge scale: something nobody ever thought of. For instance, one man I know told me that once he was down in Mexico without a cent (he'd lost his five in striking Central America) and he noticed that they had no power plants. So he started some and made a mint of money. Another man that I know was once stranded in New York, absolutely without a nickel. Well, it occurred to him that what was needed were buildings ten stories higher than any that had been put up. So he built two and sold them right away. Ever so many millionaires begin in some such simple way as that.
There is, of course, a much easier way than any of these. I almost hate to tell this, because I want to do it myself.
I learned of it just by chance one night at the club. There is one old man there, extremely rich, with one of the best faces of the lot, just like a hyena. I never used to know how he had got so rich. So one evening I asked one of the millionaires how old Bloggs had made all his money.
"How he made it?" he answered with a sneer. "Why he made it by taking it out of widows and orphans."
Widows and orphans! I thought, what an excellent idea. But who would have suspected that they had it?
"And how," I asked pretty cautiously, "did he go at it to get it out of them?"
"Why," the man answered, "he just ground them under his heels, that was how."
Now isn't that simple? I've thought of that conversation often since and I mean to try it. If I can get hold of them, I'll grind them quick enough. But how to get them. Most of the widows I know look pretty solid for that sort of thing, and as for orphans, it must take an awful lot of them. Meantime I am waiting, and if I ever get a large bunch of orphans all together, I'll stamp on them and see.
I find, too, on inquiry, that you can also grind it out of clergymen. They say they grind nicely. But perhaps orphans are easier.
How to Live to be 200
Twenty years ago I knew a man called Jiggins, who had the Health Habit.
He used to take a cold plunge every morning. He said it opened his pores. After it he took a hot sponge. He said it closed the pores. He got so that he could open and shut his pores at will.
Jiggins used to stand and breathe at an open window for half an hour before dressing. He said it expanded his lungs. He might, of course, have had it done in a shoe-store with a boot stretcher, but after all it cost him nothing this way, and what is half an hour?
After he had got his undershirt on, Jiggins used to hitch himself up like a dog in harness and do Sandow exercises. He did them forwards, backwards, and hind-side up.
He could have got a job as a dog anywhere. He spent all his time at this kind of thing. In his spare time at the office, he used to lie on his stomach on the floor and see if he could lift himself up with his knuckles. If he could, then he tried some other way until he found one that he couldn't do. Then he would spend the rest of his lunch hour on his stomach, perfectly happy.
In the evenings in his room he used to lift iron bars, cannon-balls, heave dumb-bells, and haul himself up to the ceiling with his teeth. You could hear the thumps half a mile. He liked it.
He spent half the night slinging himself around his room. He said it made his brain clear. When he got his brain perfectly clear, he went to bed and slept. As soon as he woke, he began clearing it again.
Jiggins is dead. He was, of course, a pioneer, but the fact that he dumb-belled himself to death at an early age does not prevent a whole generation of young men from following in his path.
They are ridden by the Health Mania.
They make themselves a nuisance.
They get up at impossible hours. They go out in silly little suits and run Marathon heats before breakfast. They chase around barefoot to get the dew on their feet. They hunt for ozone. They bother about pepsin. They won't eat meat because it has too much nitrogen. They won't eat fruit because it hasn't any. They prefer albumen and starch and nitrogen to huckleberry pie and doughnuts. They won't drink water out of a tap. They won't eat sardines out of a can. They won't use oysters out of a pail. They won't drink milk out of a glass. They are afraid of alcohol in any shape. Yes, sir, afraid. "Cowards."
And after all their fuss they presently incur some simple old-fashioned illness and die like anybody else.
Now people of this sort have no chance to attain any great age. They are on the wrong track.
Listen. Do you want to live to be really old, to enjoy a grand, green, exuberant, boastful old age and to make yourself a nuisance to your whole neighbourhood with your reminiscences?
Then cut out all this nonsense. Cut it out. Get up in the morning at a sensible hour. The time to get up is when you have to, not before. If your office opens at eleven, get up at ten-thirty. Take your chance on ozone. There isn't any such thing anyway. Or, if there is, you can buy a Thermos bottle full for five cents, and put it on a shelf in your cupboard. If your work begins at seven in the morning, get up at ten minutes to, but don't be liar enough to say that you like it. It isn't exhilarating, and you know it.
Also, drop all that cold-bath business. You never did it when you were a boy. Don't be a fool now. If you must take a bath (you don't really need to), take it warm. The pleasure of getting out of a cold bed and creeping into a hot bath beats a cold plunge to death. In any case, stop gassing about your tub and your "shower," as if you were the only man who ever washed.
So much for that point.
Next, take the question of germs and bacilli. Don't be scared of them. That's all. That's the whole thing, and if you once get on to that you never need to worry again.
If you see a bacilli, walk right up to it, and look it in the eye. If one flies into your room, strike at it with your hat or with a towel. Hit it as hard as you can between the neck and the thorax. It will soon get sick of that.
But as a matter of fact, a bacilli is perfectly quiet and harmless if you are not afraid of it. Speak to it. Call out to it to "lie down." It will understand. I had a bacilli once, called Fido, that would come and lie at my feet while I was working. I never knew a more affectionate companion, and when it was run over by an automobile, I buried it in the garden with genuine sorrow.
(I admit this is an exaggeration. I don't really remember its name; it may have been Robert.)
Understand that it is only a fad of modern medicine to say that cholera and typhoid and diphtheria are caused by bacilli and germs; nonsense. Cholera is caused by a frightful pain in the stomach, and diphtheria is caused by trying to cure a sore throat.
Now take the question of food.
Eat what you want. Eat lots of it. Yes, eat too much of it. Eat till you can just stagger across the room with it and prop it up against a sofa cushion. Eat everything that you like until you can't eat any more. The only test is, can you pay for it? If you can't pay for it, don't eat it. And listen—don't worry as to whether your food contains starch, or albumen, or gluten, or nitrogen. If you are a damn fool enough to want these things, go and buy them and eat all you want of them. Go to a laundry and get a bag of starch, and eat your fill of it. Eat it, and take a good long drink of glue after it, and a spoonful of Portland cement. That will gluten you, good and solid.
If you like nitrogen, go and get a druggist to give you a canful of it at the soda counter, and let you sip it with a straw. Only don't think that you can mix all these things up with your food. There isn't any nitrogen or phosphorus or albumen in ordinary things to eat. In any decent household all that sort of stuff is washed out in the kitchen sink before the food is put on the table.
And just one word about fresh air and exercise. Don't bother with either of them. Get your room full of good air, then shut up the windows and keep it. It will keep for years. Anyway, don't keep using your lungs all the time. Let them rest. As for exercise, if you have to take it, take it and put up with it. But as long as you have the price of a hack and can hire other people to play baseball for you and run races and do gymnastics when you sit in the shade and smoke and watch them—great heavens, what more do you want?
How to Avoid Getting Married
Some years ago, when I was the Editor of a Correspondence Column, I used to receive heart-broken letters from young men asking for advice and sympathy. They found themselves the object of marked attentions from girls which they scarcely knew how to deal with. They did not wish to give pain or to seem indifferent to a love which they felt was as ardent as it was disinterested, and yet they felt that they could not bestow their hands where their hearts had not spoken. They wrote to me fully and frankly, and as one soul might write to another for relief. I accepted their confidences as under the pledge of a secrecy, never divulging their disclosures beyond the circulation of my newspapers, or giving any hint of their identity other than printing their names and addresses and their letters in full. But I may perhaps without dishonour reproduce one of these letters, and my answer to it, inasmuch as the date is now months ago, and the softening hand of Time has woven its roses—how shall I put it?—the mellow haze of reminiscences has—what I mean is that the young man has gone back to work and is all right again.
Here then is a letter from a young man whose name I must not reveal, but whom I will designate as D. F., and whose address I must not divulge, but will simply indicate as Q. Street, West.
"DEAR MR. LEACOCK,
"For some time past I have been the recipient of very marked attentions from a young lady. She has been calling at the house almost every evening, and has taken me out in her motor, and invited me to concerts and the theatre. On these latter occasions I have insisted on her taking my father with me, and have tried as far as possible to prevent her saying anything to me which would be unfit for father to hear. But my position has become a very difficult one. I do not think it right to accept her presents when I cannot feel that my heart is hers. Yesterday she sent to my house a beautiful bouquet of American Beauty roses addressed to me, and a magnificent bunch of Timothy Hay for father. I do not know what to say. Would it be right for father to keep all this valuable hay? I have confided fully in father, and we have discussed the question of presents. He thinks that there are some that we can keep with propriety, and others that a sense of delicacy forbids us to retain. He himself is going to sort out the presents into the two classes. He thinks that as far as he can see, the Hay is in class B. Meantime I write to you, as I understand that Miss Laura Jean Libby and Miss Beatrix Fairfax are on their vacation, and in any case a friend of mine who follows their writings closely tells me that they are always full.
"I enclose a dollar, because I do not think it right to ask you to give all your valuable time and your best thought without giving you back what it is worth."
On receipt of this I wrote back at once a private and confidential letter which I printed in the following edition of the paper.
"MY DEAR, DEAR BOY,
"Your letter has touched me. As soon as I opened it and saw the green and blue tint of the dollar bill which you had so daintily and prettily folded within the pages of your sweet letter, I knew that the note was from someone that I could learn to love, if our correspondence were to continue as it had begun. I took the dollar from your letter and kissed and fondled it a dozen times. Dear unknown boy! I shall always keep that dollar! No matter how much I may need it, or how many necessaries, yes, absolute necessities, of life I may be wanting, I shall always keep THAT dollar. Do you understand, dear? I shall keep it. I shall not spend it. As far as the USE of it goes, it will be just as if you had not sent it. Even if you were to send me another dollar, I should still keep the first one, so that no matter how many you sent, the recollection of one first friendship would not be contaminated with mercenary considerations. When I say dollar, darling, of course an express order, or a postal note, or even stamps would be all the same. But in that case do not address me in care of this office, as I should not like to think of your pretty little letters lying round where others might handle them.
"But now I must stop chatting about myself, for I know that you cannot be interested in a simple old fogey such as I am. Let me talk to you about your letter and about the difficult question it raises for all marriageable young men.
"In the first place, let me tell you how glad I am that you confide in your father. Whatever happens, go at once to your father, put your arms about his neck, and have a good cry together. And you are right, too, about presents. It needs a wiser head than my poor perplexed boy to deal with them. Take them to your father to be sorted, or, if you feel that you must not overtax his love, address them to me in your own pretty hand.
"And now let us talk, dear, as one heart to another. Remember always that if a girl is to have your heart she must be worthy of you. When you look at your own bright innocent face in the mirror, resolve that you will give your hand to no girl who is not just as innocent as you are and no brighter than yourself. So that you must first find out how innocent she is. Ask her quietly and frankly—remember, dear, that the days of false modesty are passing away—whether she has ever been in jail. If she has not (and if YOU have not), then you know that you are dealing with a dear confiding girl who will make you a life mate. Then you must know, too, that her mind is worthy of your own. So many men to-day are led astray by the merely superficial graces and attractions of girls who in reality possess no mental equipment at all. Many a man is bitterly disillusioned after marriage when he realises that his wife cannot solve a quadratic equation, and that he is compelled to spend all his days with a woman who does not know that X squared plus 2XY plus Y squared is the same thing, or, I think nearly the same thing, as X plus Y squared.
"Nor should the simple domestic virtues be neglected. If a girl desires to woo you, before allowing her to press her suit, ask her if she knows how to press yours. If she can, let her woo; if not, tell her to whoa. But I see I have written quite as much as I need for this column. Won't you write again, just as before, dear boy?
How to be a Doctor
Certainly the progress of science is a wonderful thing. One can't help feeling proud of it. I must admit that I do. Whenever I get talking to anyone—that is, to anyone who knows even less about it than I do—about the marvellous development of electricity, for instance, I feel as if I had been personally responsible for it. As for the linotype and the aeroplane and the vacuum house-cleaner, well, I am not sure that I didn't invent them myself. I believe that all generous-hearted men feel just the same way about it.
However, that is not the point I am intending to discuss. What I want to speak about is the progress of medicine. There, if you like, is something wonderful. Any lover of humanity (or of either sex of it) who looks back on the achievements of medical science must feel his heart glow and his right ventricle expand with the pericardiac stimulus of a permissible pride.
Just think of it. A hundred years ago there were no bacilli, no ptomaine poisoning, no diphtheria, and no appendicitis. Rabies was but little known, and only imperfectly developed. All of these we owe to medical science. Even such things as psoriasis and parotitis and trypanosomiasis, which are now household names, were known only to the few, and were quite beyond the reach of the great mass of the people.
Or consider the advance of the science on its practical side. A hundred years ago it used to be supposed that fever could be cured by the letting of blood; now we know positively that it cannot. Even seventy years ago it was thought that fever was curable by the administration of sedative drugs; now we know that it isn't. For the matter of that, as recently as thirty years ago, doctors thought that they could heal a fever by means of low diet and the application of ice; now they are absolutely certain that they cannot. This instance shows the steady progress made in the treatment of fever. But there has been the same cheering advance all along the line. Take rheumatism. A few generations ago people with rheumatism used to have to carry round potatoes in their pockets as a means of cure. Now the doctors allow them to carry absolutely anything they like. They may go round with their pockets full of water-melons if they wish to. It makes no difference. Or take the treatment of epilepsy. It used to be supposed that the first thing to do in sudden attacks of this kind was to unfasten the patient's collar and let him breathe; at present, on the contrary, many doctors consider it better to button up the patient's collar and let him choke.
In only one respect has there been a decided lack of progress in the domain of medicine, that is in the time it takes to become a qualified practitioner. In the good old days a man was turned out thoroughly equipped after putting in two winter sessions at a college and spending his summers in running logs for a sawmill. Some of the students were turned out even sooner. Nowadays it takes anywhere from five to eight years to become a doctor. Of course, one is willing to grant that our young men are growing stupider and lazier every year. This fact will be corroborated at once by any man over fifty years of age. But even when this is said it seems odd that a man should study eight years now to learn what he used to acquire in eight months.
However, let that go. The point I want to develop is that the modern doctor's business is an extremely simple one, which could be acquired in about two weeks. This is the way it is done.
The patient enters the consulting-room. "Doctor," he says, "I have a bad pain." "Where is it?" "Here." "Stand up," says the doctor, "and put your arms up above your head." Then the doctor goes behind the patient and strikes him a powerful blow in the back. "Do you feel that," he says. "I do," says the patient. Then the doctor turns suddenly and lets him have a left hook under the heart. "Can you feel that," he says viciously, as the patient falls over on the sofa in a heap. "Get up," says the doctor, and counts ten. The patient rises. The doctor looks him over very carefully without speaking, and then suddenly fetches him a blow in the stomach that doubles him up speechless. The doctor walks over to the window and reads the morning paper for a while. Presently he turns and begins to mutter more to himself than the patient. "Hum!" he says, "there's a slight anaesthesia of the tympanum." "Is that so?" says the patient, in an agony of fear. "What can I do about it, doctor?" "Well," says the doctor, "I want you to keep very quiet; you'll have to go to bed and stay there and keep quiet." In reality, of course, the doctor hasn't the least idea what is wrong with the man; but he DOES know that if he will go to bed and keep quiet, awfully quiet, he'll either get quietly well again or else die a quiet death. Meantime, if the doctor calls every morning and thumps and beats him, he can keep the patient submissive and perhaps force him to confess what is wrong with him.
"What about diet, doctor?" says the patient, completely cowed.
The answer to this question varies very much. It depends on how the doctor is feeling and whether it is long since he had a meal himself. If it is late in the morning and the doctor is ravenously hungry, he says: "Oh, eat plenty, don't be afraid of it; eat meat, vegetables, starch, glue, cement, anything you like." But if the doctor has just had lunch and if his breathing is short-circuited with huckleberry-pie, he says very firmly: "No, I don't want you to eat anything at all: absolutely not a bite; it won't hurt you, a little self-denial in the matter of eating is the best thing in the world."
"And what about drinking?" Again the doctor's answer varies. He may say: "Oh, yes, you might drink a glass of lager now and then, or, if you prefer it, a gin and soda or a whisky and Apollinaris, and I think before going to bed I'd take a hot Scotch with a couple of lumps of white sugar and bit of lemon-peel in it and a good grating of nutmeg on the top." The doctor says this with real feeling, and his eye glistens with the pure love of his profession. But if, on the other hand, the doctor has spent the night before at a little gathering of medical friends, he is very apt to forbid the patient to touch alcohol in any shape, and to dismiss the subject with great severity.
Of course, this treatment in and of itself would appear too transparent, and would fail to inspire the patient with a proper confidence. But nowadays this element is supplied by the work of the analytical laboratory. Whatever is wrong with the patient, the doctor insists on snipping off parts and pieces and extracts of him and sending them mysteriously away to be analysed. He cuts off a lock of the patient's hair, marks it, "Mr. Smith's Hair, October, 1910." Then he clips off the lower part of the ear, and wraps it in paper, and labels it, "Part of Mr. Smith's Ear, October, 1910." Then he looks the patient up and down, with the scissors in his hand, and if he sees any likely part of him he clips it off and wraps it up. Now this, oddly enough, is the very thing that fills the patient up with that sense of personal importance which is worth paying for. "Yes," says the bandaged patient, later in the day to a group of friends much impressed, "the doctor thinks there may be a slight anaesthesia of the prognosis, but he's sent my ear to New York and my appendix to Baltimore and a lock of my hair to the editors of all the medical journals, and meantime I am to keep very quiet and not exert myself beyond drinking a hot Scotch with lemon and nutmeg every half-hour." With that he sinks back faintly on his cushions, luxuriously happy.
And yet, isn't it funny?
You and I and the rest of us—even if we know all this—as soon as we have a pain within us, rush for a doctor as fast as a hack can take us. Yes, personally, I even prefer an ambulance with a bell on it. It's more soothing.
The New Food
I see from the current columns of the daily press that "Professor Plumb, of the University of Chicago, has just invented a highly concentrated form of food. All the essential nutritive elements are put together in the form of pellets, each of which contains from one to two hundred times as much nourishment as an ounce of an ordinary article of diet. These pellets, diluted with water, will form all that is necessary to support life. The professor looks forward confidently to revolutionizing the present food system."
Now this kind of thing may be all very well in its way, but it is going to have its drawbacks as well. In the bright future anticipated by Professor Plumb, we can easily imagine such incidents as the following:
The smiling family were gathered round the hospitable board. The table was plenteously laid with a soup-plate in front of each beaming child, a bucket of hot water before the radiant mother, and at the head of the board the Christmas dinner of the happy home, warmly covered by a thimble and resting on a poker chip. The expectant whispers of the little ones were hushed as the father, rising from his chair, lifted the thimble and disclosed a small pill of concentrated nourishment on the chip before him. Christmas turkey, cranberry sauce, plum pudding, mince pie—it was all there, all jammed into that little pill and only waiting to expand. Then the father with deep reverence, and a devout eye alternating between the pill and heaven, lifted his voice in a benediction.
At this moment there was an agonized cry from the mother.
"Oh, Henry, quick! Baby has snatched the pill!" It was too true. Dear little Gustavus Adolphus, the golden-haired baby boy, had grabbed the whole Christmas dinner off the poker chip and bolted it. Three hundred and fifty pounds of concentrated nourishment passed down the oesophagus of the unthinking child.
"Clap him on the back!" cried the distracted mother. "Give him water!"
The idea was fatal. The water striking the pill caused it to expand. There was a dull rumbling sound and then, with an awful bang, Gustavus Adolphus exploded into fragments!
And when they gathered the little corpse together, the baby lips were parted in a lingering smile that could only be worn by a child who had eaten thirteen Christmas dinners.
A New Pathology
It has long been vaguely understood that the condition of a man's clothes has a certain effect upon the health of both body and mind. The well-known proverb, "Clothes make the man" has its origin in a general recognition of the powerful influence of the habiliments in their reaction upon the wearer. The same truth may be observed in the facts of everyday life. On the one hand we remark the bold carriage and mental vigour of a man attired in a new suit of clothes; on the other hand we note the melancholy features of him who is conscious of a posterior patch, or the haunted face of one suffering from internal loss of buttons. But while common observation thus gives us a certain familiarity with a few leading facts regarding the ailments and influence of clothes, no attempt has as yet been made to reduce our knowledge to a systematic form. At the same time the writer feels that a valuable addition might be made to the science of medicine in this direction. The numerous diseases which are caused by this fatal influence should receive a scientific analysis, and their treatment be included among the principles of the healing art. The diseases of the clothes may roughly be divided into medical cases and surgical cases, while these again fall into classes according to the particular garment through which the sufferer is attacked.
Probably no article of apparel is so liable to a diseased condition as the trousers. It may be well, therefore, to treat first those maladies to which they are subject.
I. Contractio Pantalunae, or Shortening of the Legs of the Trousers, an extremely painful malady most frequently found in the growing youth. The first symptom is the appearance of a yawning space (lacuna) above the boots, accompanied by an acute sense of humiliation and a morbid anticipation of mockery. The application of treacle to the boots, although commonly recommended, may rightly be condemned as too drastic a remedy. The use of boots reaching to the knee, to be removed only at night, will afford immediate relief. In connection with Contractio is often found—
II. Inflatio Genu, or Bagging of the Knees of the Trousers, a disease whose symptoms are similar to those above. The patient shows an aversion to the standing posture, and, in acute cases, if the patient be compelled to stand, the head is bent and the eye fixed with painful rigidity upon the projecting blade formed at the knee of the trousers.
In both of the above diseases anything that can be done to free the mind of the patient from a morbid sense of his infirmity will do much to improve the general tone of the system.
III. Oases, or Patches, are liable to break out anywhere on the trousers, and range in degree of gravity from those of a trifling nature to those of a fatal character. The most distressing cases are those where the patch assumes a different colour from that of the trousers (dissimilitas coloris). In this instance the mind of the patient is found to be in a sadly aberrated condition. A speedy improvement may, however, be effected by cheerful society, books, flowers, and, above all, by a complete change.
IV. The overcoat is attacked by no serious disorders, except—
Phosphorescentia, or Glistening, a malady which indeed may often be observed to affect the whole system. It is caused by decay of tissue from old age and is generally aggravated by repeated brushing. A peculiar feature of the complaint is the lack of veracity on the part of the patient in reference to the cause of his uneasiness. Another invariable symptom is his aversion to outdoor exercise; under various pretexts, which it is the duty of his medical adviser firmly to combat, he will avoid even a gentle walk in the streets.
V. Of the waistcoat science recognizes but one disease—
Porriggia, an affliction caused by repeated spilling of porridge. It is generally harmless, chiefly owing to the mental indifference of the patient. It can be successfully treated by repeated fomentations of benzine.
VI. Mortificatio Tilis, or Greenness of the Hat, is a disease often found in connection with Phosphorescentia (mentioned above), and characterized by the same aversion to outdoor life.
VII. Sterilitas, or Loss of Fur, is another disease of the hat, especially prevalent in winter. It is not accurately known whether this is caused by a falling out of the fur or by a cessation of growth. In all diseases of the hat the mind of the patient is greatly depressed and his countenance stamped with the deepest gloom. He is particularly sensitive in regard to questions as to the previous history of the hat.
Want of space precludes the mention of minor diseases, such as—
VIII. Odditus Soccorum, or oddness of the socks, a thing in itself trifling, but of an alarming nature if met in combination with Contractio Pantalunae. Cases are found where the patient, possibly on the public platform or at a social gathering, is seized with a consciousness of the malady so suddenly as to render medical assistance futile.
It is impossible to mention more than a few of the most typical cases of diseases of this sort.
I. Explosio, or Loss of Buttons, is the commonest malady demanding surgical treatment. It consists of a succession of minor fractures, possibly internal, which at first excite no alarm. A vague sense of uneasiness is presently felt, which often leads the patient to seek relief in the string habit—a habit which, if unduly indulged in, may assume the proportions of a ruling passion. The use of sealing-wax, while admirable as a temporary remedy for Explosio, should never be allowed to gain a permanent hold upon the system. There is no doubt that a persistent indulgence in the string habit, or the constant use of sealing-wax, will result in—
II. Fractura Suspendorum, or Snapping of the Braces, which amounts to a general collapse of the system. The patient is usually seized with a severe attack of explosio, followed by a sudden sinking feeling and sense of loss. A sound constitution may rally from the shock, but a system undermined by the string habit invariably succumbs.
III. Sectura Pantalunae, or Ripping of the Trousers, is generally caused by sitting upon warm beeswax or leaning against a hook. In the case of the very young it is not unfrequently accompanied by a distressing suppuration of the shirt. This, however, is not remarked in adults. The malady is rather mental than bodily, the mind of the patient being racked by a keen sense of indignity and a feeling of unworthiness. The only treatment is immediate isolation, with a careful stitching of the affected part.
In conclusion, it may be stated that at the first symptom of disease the patient should not hesitate to put himself in the hands of a professional tailor. In so brief a compass as the present article the discussion has of necessity been rather suggestive than exhaustive. Much yet remains to be done, and the subject opens wide to the inquiring eye. The writer will, however, feel amply satisfied if this brief outline may help to direct the attention of medical men to what is yet an unexplored field.
The Poet Answered
In answer to your repeated questions and requests which have appeared for some years past in the columns of the rural press, I beg to submit the following solutions of your chief difficulties:—
Topic I.—You frequently ask, where are the friends of your childhood, and urge that they shall be brought back to you. As far as I am able to learn, those of your friends who are not in jail are still right there in your native village. You point out that they were wont to share your gambols. If so, you are certainly entitled to have theirs now.
Topic II.—You have taken occasion to say:
"Give me not silk, nor rich attire, Nor gold, nor jewels rare."
But, my dear fellow, this is preposterous. Why, these are the very things I had bought for you. If you won't take any of these, I shall have to give you factory cotton and cordwood.
Topic III.—You also ask, "How fares my love across the sea?" Intermediate, I presume. She would hardly travel steerage.
Topic IV.—"Why was I born? Why should I breathe?" Here I quite agree with you. I don't think you ought to breathe.
Topic V.—You demand that I shall show you the man whose soul is dead and then mark him. I am awfully sorry; the man was around here all day yesterday, and if I had only known I could easily have marked him so that we could pick him out again.
Topic VI.—I notice that you frequently say, "Oh, for the sky of your native land." Oh, for it, by all means, if you wish. But remember that you already owe for a great deal.
Topic VII.—On more than one occasion you wish to be informed, "What boots it, that you idly dream?" Nothing boots it at present—a fact, sir, which ought to afford you the highest gratification.
The Force of Statistics
They were sitting on a seat of the car, immediately in front of me. I was consequently able to hear all that they were saying. They were evidently strangers who had dropped into a conversation. They both had the air of men who considered themselves profoundly interesting as minds. It was plain that each laboured under the impression that he was a ripe thinker.
One had just been reading a book which lay in his lap.
"I've been reading some very interesting statistics," he was saying to the other thinker.
"Ah, statistics" said the other; "wonderful things, sir, statistics; very fond of them myself."
"I find, for instance," the first man went on, "that a drop of water is filled with little...with little...I forget just what you call them...little—er—things, every cubic inch containing—er—containing...let me see..."
"Say a million," said the other thinker, encouragingly.
"Yes, a million, or possibly a billion...but at any rate, ever so many of them."
"Is it possible?" said the other. "But really, you know there are wonderful things in the world. Now, coal...take coal..."
"Very, good," said his friend, "let us take coal," settling back in his seat with the air of an intellect about to feed itself.
"Do you know that every ton of coal burnt in an engine will drag a train of cars as long as...I forget the exact length, but say a train of cars of such and such a length, and weighing, say so much...from...from...hum! for the moment the exact distance escapes me...drag it from..."
"From here to the moon," suggested the other.
"Ah, very likely; yes, from here to the moon. Wonderful, isn't it?"
"But the most stupendous calculation of all, sir, is in regard to the distance from the earth to the sun. Positively, sir, a cannon-ball—er—fired at the sun..."
"Fired at the sun," nodded the other, approvingly, as if he had often seen it done.
"And travelling at the rate of...of..."
"Of three cents a mile," hinted the listener.
"No, no, you misunderstand me,—but travelling at a fearful rate, simply fearful, sir, would take a hundred million—no, a hundred billion—in short would take a scandalously long time in getting there—"
At this point I could stand no more. I interrupted—"Provided it were fired from Philadelphia," I said, and passed into the smoking-car.
Men Who have Shaved Me
A barber is by nature and inclination a sport. He can tell you at what exact hour the ball game of the day is to begin, can foretell its issue without losing a stroke of the razor, and can explain the points of inferiority of all the players, as compared with better men that he has personally seen elsewhere, with the nicety of a professional. He can do all this, and then stuff the customer's mouth with a soap-brush, and leave him while he goes to the other end of the shop to make a side bet with one of the other barbers on the outcome of the Autumn Handicap. In the barber-shops they knew the result of the Jeffries-Johnson prize-fight long before it happened. It is on information of this kind that they make their living. The performance of shaving is only incidental to it. Their real vocation in life is imparting information. To the barber the outside world is made up of customers, who are to be thrown into chairs, strapped, manacled, gagged with soap, and then given such necessary information on the athletic events of the moment as will carry them through the business hours of the day without open disgrace.
As soon as the barber has properly filled up the customer with information of this sort, he rapidly removes his whiskers as a sign that the man is now fit to talk to, and lets him out of the chair.
The public has grown to understand the situation. Every reasonable business man is willing to sit and wait half an hour for a shave which he could give himself in three minutes, because he knows that if he goes down town without understanding exactly why Chicago lost two games straight he will appear an ignoramus.
At times, of course, the barber prefers to test his customer with a question or two. He gets him pinned in the chair, with his head well back, covers the customer's face with soap, and then planting his knee on his chest and holding his hand firmly across the customer's mouth, to prevent all utterance and to force him to swallow the soap, he asks: "Well, what did you think of the Detroit-St. Louis game yesterday?" This is not really meant for a question at all. It is only equivalent to saying: "Now, you poor fool, I'll bet you don't know anything about the great events of your country at all." There is a gurgle in the customer's throat as if he were trying to answer, and his eyes are seen to move sideways, but the barber merely thrusts the soap-brush into each eye, and if any motion still persists, he breathes gin and peppermint over the face, till all sign of life is extinct. Then he talks the game over in detail with the barber at the next chair, each leaning across an inanimate thing extended under steaming towels that was once a man.
To know all these things barbers have to be highly educated. It is true that some of the greatest barbers that have ever lived have begun as uneducated, illiterate men, and by sheer energy and indomitable industry have forced their way to the front. But these are exceptions. To succeed nowadays it is practically necessary to be a college graduate. As the courses at Harvard and Yale have been found too superficial, there are now established regular Barbers' Colleges, where a bright young man can learn as much in three weeks as he would be likely to know after three years at Harvard. The courses at these colleges cover such things as: (1) Physiology, including Hair and its Destruction, The Origin and Growth of Whiskers, Soap in its Relation to Eyesight; (2) Chemistry, including lectures on Florida Water; and How to Make it out of Sardine Oil; (3) Practical Anatomy, including The Scalp and How to Lift it, The Ears and How to Remove them, and, as the Major Course for advanced students, The Veins of the Face and how to open and close them at will by the use of alum.
The education of the customer is, as I have said, the chief part of the barber's vocation. But it must be remembered that the incidental function of removing his whiskers in order to mark him as a well-informed man is also of importance, and demands long practice and great natural aptitude. In the barbers' shops of modern cities shaving has been brought to a high degree of perfection. A good barber is not content to remove the whiskers of his client directly and immediately. He prefers to cook him first. He does this by immersing the head in hot water and covering the victim's face with steaming towels until he has him boiled to a nice pink. From time to time the barber removes the towels and looks at the face to see if it is yet boiled pink enough for his satisfaction. If it is not, he replaces the towels again and jams them down firmly with his hand until the cooking is finished. The final result, however, amply justifies this trouble, and the well-boiled customer only needs the addition of a few vegetables on the side to present an extremely appetizing appearance.
During the process of the shave, it is customary for the barber to apply the particular kind of mental torture known as the third degree. This is done by terrorizing the patient as to the very evident and proximate loss of all his hair and whiskers, which the barber is enabled by his experience to foretell. "Your hair," he says, very sadly and sympathetically, "is all falling out. Better let me give you a shampoo?" "No." "Let me singe your hair to close up the follicles?" "No." "Let me plug up the ends of your hair with sealing-wax, it's the only thing that will save it for you?" "No." "Let me rub an egg on your scalp?" "No." "Let me squirt a lemon on your eyebrows?" "No."
The barber sees that he is dealing with a man of determination, and he warms to his task. He bends low and whispers into the prostrate ear: "You've got a good many grey hairs coming in; better let me give you an application of Hairocene, only cost you half a dollar?" "No." "Your face," he whispers again, with a soft, caressing voice, "is all covered with wrinkles; better let me rub some of this Rejuvenator into the face."
This process is continued until one of two things happens. Either the customer is obdurate, and staggers to his feet at last and gropes his way out of the shop with the knowledge that he is a wrinkled, prematurely senile man, whose wicked life is stamped upon his face, and whose unstopped hair-ends and failing follicles menace him with the certainty of complete baldness within twenty-four hours—or else, as in nearly all instances, he succumbs. In the latter case, immediately on his saying "yes" there is a shout of exultation from the barber, a roar of steaming water, and within a moment two barbers have grabbed him by the feet and thrown him under the tap, and, in spite of his struggles, are giving him the Hydro-magnetic treatment. When he emerges from their hands, he steps out of the shop looking as if he had been varnished.
But even the application of the Hydro-magnetic and the Rejuvenator do not by any means exhaust the resources of the up-to-date barber. He prefers to perform on the customer a whole variety of subsidiary services not directly connected with shaving, but carried on during the process of the shave.
In a good, up-to-date shop, while one man is shaving the customer, others black his boots; brush his clothes, darn his socks, point his nails, enamel his teeth, polish his eyes, and alter the shape of any of his joints which they think unsightly. During this operation they often stand seven or eight deep round a customer, fighting for a chance to get at him.
All of these remarks apply to barber-shops in the city, and not to country places. In the country there is only one barber and one customer at a time. The thing assumes the aspect of a straight-out, rough-and-tumble, catch-as-catch-can fight, with a few spectators sitting round the shop to see fair play. In the city they can shave a man without removing any of his clothes. But in the country, where the customer insists on getting the full value for his money, they remove the collar and necktie, the coat and the waistcoat, and, for a really good shave and hair-cut, the customer is stripped to the waist. The barber can then take a rush at him from the other side of the room, and drive the clippers up the full length of the spine, so as to come at the heavier hair on the back of the head with the impact of a lawn-mower driven into long grass.
Getting the Thread of It
Have you ever had a man try to explain to you what happened in a book as far as he has read? It is a most instructive thing. Sinclair, the man who shares my rooms with me, made such an attempt the other night. I had come in cold and tired from a walk and found him full of excitement, with a bulky magazine in one hand and a paper-cutter gripped in the other.
"Say, here's a grand story," he burst out as soon as I came in; "it's great! most fascinating thing I ever read. Wait till I read you some of it. I'll just tell you what has happened up to where I am—you'll easily catch the thread of it—and then we'll finish it together."
I wasn't feeling in a very responsive mood, but I saw no way to stop him, so I merely said, "All right, throw me your thread, I'll catch it."
"Well," Sinclair began with great animation, "this count gets this letter..."
"Hold on," I interrupted, "what count gets what letter?"
"Oh, the count it's about, you know. He gets this letter from this Porphirio."
"From which Porphirio?"
"Why, Porphirio sent the letter, don't you see, he sent it," Sinclair exclaimed a little impatiently—"sent it through Demonio and told him to watch for him with him, and kill him when he got him."
"Oh, see here!" I broke in, "who is to meet who, and who is to get stabbed?"
"They're going to stab Demonio."
"And who brought the letter?"
"Well, now, Demonio must be a clam! What did he bring it for?"
"Oh, but he don't know what's in it, that's just the slick part of it," and Sinclair began to snigger to himself at the thought of it. "You see, this Carlo Carlotti the Condottiere..."
"Stop right there," I said. "What's a Condottiere?"
"It's a sort of brigand. He, you understand, was in league with this Fra Fraliccolo..."
A suspicion flashed across my mind. "Look here," I said firmly, "if the scene of this story is laid in the Highlands, I refuse to listen to it. Call it off."
"No, no," Sinclair answered quickly, "that's all right. It's laid in Italy...time of Pius the something. He comes in—say, but he's great! so darned crafty. It's him, you know, that persuades this Franciscan..."
"Pause," I said, "what Franciscan?"
"Fra Fraliccolo, of course," Sinclair said snappishly. "You see, Pio tries to..."
"Whoa!" I said, "who is Pio?"
"Oh, hang it all, Pio is Italian, it's short for Pius. He tries to get Fra Fraliccolo and Carlo Carlotti the Condottiere to steal the document from...let me see; what was he called?...Oh, yes...from the Dog of Venice, so that...or...no, hang it, you put me out, that's all wrong. It's the other way round. Pio wasn't clever at all; he's a regular darned fool. It's the Dog that's crafty. By Jove, he's fine," Sinclair went on; warming up to enthusiasm again, "he just does anything he wants. He makes this Demonio (Demonio is one of those hirelings, you know, he's the tool of the Dog)...makes him steal the document off Porphirio, and..."
"But how does he get him to do that?" I asked.
"Oh, the Dog has Demonio pretty well under his thumb, so he makes Demonio scheme round till he gets old Pio—er—gets him under his thumb, and then, of course, Pio thinks that Porphirio—I mean he thinks that he has Porphirio—er—has him under his thumb."
"Half a minute, Sinclair," I said, "who did you say was under the Dog's thumb?"
"Thanks. I was mixed in the thumbs. Go on."
"Well, just when things are like this..."
"Like I said."
"Who should turn up and thwart the whole scheme, but this Signorina Tarara in her domino..."
"Hully Gee!" I said, "you make my head ache. What the deuce does she come in her domino for?"
"Why, to thwart it."
"To thwart what?"
"Thwart the whole darned thing," Sinclair exclaimed emphatically.
"But can't she thwart it without her domino?"
"I should think not! You see, if it hadn't been for the domino, the Dog would have spotted her quick as a wink. Only when he sees her in the domino with this rose in her hair, he thinks she must be Lucia dell' Esterolla."
"Say, he fools himself, doesn't he? Who's this last girl?"
"Lucia? Oh, she's great!" Sinclair said. "She's one of those Southern natures, you know, full of—er—full of..."
"Full of fun," I suggested.
"Oh, hang it all, don't make fun of it! Well, anyhow, she's sister, you understand, to the Contessa Carantarata, and that's why Fra Fraliccolo, or...hold on, that's not it, no, no, she's not sister to anybody. She's cousin, that's it; or, anyway, she thinks she is cousin to Fra Fraliccolo himself, and that's why Pio tries to stab Fra Fraliccolo."
"Oh, yes," I assented, "naturally he would."
"Ah," Sinclair said hopefully, getting his paper-cutter ready to cut the next pages, "you begin to get the thread now, don't you?"
"Oh, fine!" I said. "The people in it are the Dog and Pio, and Carlo Carlotti the Condottiere, and those others that we spoke of."
"That's right," Sinclair said. "Of course, there are more still that I can tell you about if..."
"Oh, never mind," I said, "I'll work along with those, they're a pretty representative crowd. Then Porphirio is under Pio's thumb, and Pio is under Demonio's thumb, and the Dog is crafty, and Lucia is full of something all the time. Oh, I've got a mighty clear idea of it," I concluded bitterly.
"Oh, you've got it," Sinclair said, "I knew you'd like it. Now we'll go on. I'll just finish to the bottom of my page and then I'll go on aloud."
He ran his eyes rapidly over the lines till he came to the bottom of the page, then he cut the leaves and turned over. I saw his eye rest on the half-dozen lines that confronted him on the next page with an expression of utter consternation.
"Well, I will be cursed!" he said at length.
"What's the matter?" I said gently, with a great joy at my heart.
"This infernal thing's a serial," he gasped, as he pointed at the words, "To be continued," "and that's all there is in this number."
Telling His Faults
"Oh, do, Mr. Sapling," said the beautiful girl at the summer hotel, "do let me read the palm of your hand! I can tell you all your faults."
Mr. Sapling gave an inarticulate gurgle and a roseate flush swept over his countenance as he surrendered his palm to the grasp of the fair enchantress.
"Oh, you're just full of faults, just full of them, Mr. Sapling!" she cried.
Mr. Sapling looked it.
"To begin with," said the beautiful girl, slowly and reflectingly, "you are dreadfully cynical: you hardly believe in anything at all, and you've utterly no faith in us poor women."
The feeble smile that had hitherto kindled the features of Mr. Sapling into a ray of chastened imbecility, was distorted in an effort at cynicism.
"Then your next fault is that you are too determined; much too determined. When once you have set your will on any object, you crush every obstacle under your feet."
Mr. Sapling looked meekly down at his tennis shoes, but began to feel calmer, more lifted up. Perhaps he had been all these things without knowing it.
"Then you are cold and sarcastic."
Mr. Sapling attempted to look cold and sarcastic. He succeeded in a rude leer.
"And you're horribly world-weary, you care for nothing. You have drained philosophy to the dregs, and scoff at everything."
Mr. Sapling's inner feeling was that from now on he would simply scoff and scoff and scoff.
"Your only redeeming quality is that you are generous. You have tried to kill even this, but cannot. Yes," concluded the beautiful girl, "those are your faults, generous still, but cold, cynical, and relentless. Good night, Mr. Sapling."
And resisting all entreaties the beautiful girl passed from the verandah of the hotel and vanished.
And when later in the evening the brother of the beautiful girl borrowed Mr. Sapling's tennis racket, and his bicycle for a fortnight, and the father of the beautiful girl got Sapling to endorse his note for a couple of hundreds, and her uncle Zephas borrowed his bedroom candle and used his razor to cut up a plug of tobacco, Mr. Sapling felt proud to be acquainted with the family.
It is in the depth of winter, when the intense cold renders it desirable to stay at home, that the really Pleasant Family is wont to serve invitations upon a few friends to spend a Quiet Evening.
It is at these gatherings that that gay thing, the indoor winter game, becomes rampant. It is there that the old euchre deck and the staring domino become fair and beautiful things; that the rattle of the Loto counter rejoices the heart, that the old riddle feels the sap stirring in its limbs again, and the amusing spilikin completes the mental ruin of the jaded guest. Then does the Jolly Maiden Aunt propound the query: What is the difference between an elephant and a silk hat? Or declare that her first is a vowel, her second a preposition, and her third an archipelago. It is to crown such a quiet evening, and to give the finishing stroke to those of the visitors who have not escaped early, with a fierce purpose of getting at the saloons before they have time to close, that the indoor game or family reservoir of fun is dragged from its long sleep. It is spread out upon the table. Its paper of directions is unfolded. Its cards, its counters, its pointers and its markers are distributed around the table, and the visitor forces a look of reckless pleasure upon his face. Then the "few simple directions" are read aloud by the Jolly Aunt, instructing each player to challenge the player holding the golden letter corresponding to the digit next in order, to name a dead author beginning with X, failing which the player must declare himself in fault, and pay the forfeit of handing over to the Jolly Aunt his gold watch and all his money, or having a hot plate put down his neck.
With a view to bringing some relief to the guests at entertainments of this kind, I have endeavoured to construct one or two little winter pastimes of a novel character. They are quite inexpensive, and as they need no background of higher arithmetic or ancient history, they are within reach of the humblest intellect. Here is one of them. It is called Indoor Football, or Football without a Ball.
In this game any number of players, from fifteen to thirty, seat themselves in a heap on any one player, usually the player next to the dealer. They then challenge him to get up, while one player stands with a stop-watch in his hand and counts forty seconds. Should the first player fail to rise before forty seconds are counted, the player with the watch declares him suffocated. This is called a "Down" and counts one. The player who was the Down is then leant against the wall; his wind is supposed to be squeezed out. The player called the referee then blows a whistle and the players select another player and score a down off him. While the player is supposed to be down, all the rest must remain seated as before, and not rise from him until the referee by counting forty and blowing his whistle announces that in his opinion the other player is stifled. He is then leant against the wall beside the first player. When the whistle again blows the player nearest the referee strikes him behind the right ear. This is a "Touch," and counts two.
It is impossible, of course, to give all the rules in detail. I might add, however, that while it counts TWO to strike the referee, to kick him counts THREE. To break his arm or leg counts FOUR, and to kill him outright is called GRAND SLAM and counts one game.
Here is another little thing that I have worked out, which is superior to parlour games in that it combines their intense excitement with sound out-of-door exercise.
It is easily comprehended, and can be played by any number of players, old and young. It requires no other apparatus than a trolley car of the ordinary type, a mile or two of track, and a few thousand volts of electricity. It is called:
The Suburban Trolley Car A Holiday Game for Old and Young.
The chief part in the game is taken by two players who station themselves one at each end of the car, and who adopt some distinctive costumes to indicate that they are "it." The other players occupy the body of the car, or take up their position at intervals along the track.
The object of each player should be to enter the car as stealthily as possible in such a way as to escape the notice of the players in distinctive dress. Should he fail to do this he must pay the philopena or forfeit. Of these there are two: philopena No. 1, the payment of five cents, and philopena No. 2, being thrown off the car by the neck. Each player may elect which philopena he will pay. Any player who escapes paying the philopena scores one.
The players who are in the car may elect to adopt a standing attitude, or to seat themselves, but no player may seat himself in the lap of another without the second player's consent. The object of those who elect to remain standing is to place their feet upon the toes of those who sit; when they do this they score. The object of those who elect to sit is to elude the feet of the standing players. Much merriment is thus occasioned.
The player in distinctive costume at the front of the car controls a crank, by means of which he is enabled to bring the car to a sudden stop, or to cause it to plunge violently forward. His aim in so doing is to cause all the standing players to fall over backward. Every time he does this he scores. For this purpose he is generally in collusion with the other player in distinctive costume, whose business it is to let him know by a series of bells and signals when the players are not looking, and can be easily thrown down. A sharp fall of this sort gives rise to no end of banter and good-natured drollery, directed against the two players who are "it."
Should a player who is thus thrown backward save himself from falling by sitting down in the lap of a female player, he scores one. Any player who scores in this manner is entitled to remain seated while he may count six, after which he must remove himself or pay philopena No. 2.
Should the player who controls the crank perceive a player upon the street desirous of joining in the game by entering the car, his object should be: primo, to run over him and kill him; secundo, to kill him by any other means in his power; tertio, to let him into the car, but to exact the usual philopena.
Should a player, in thus attempting to get on the car from without, become entangled in the machinery, the player controlling the crank shouts "huff!" and the car is supposed to pass over him. All within the car score one.
A fine spice of the ludicrous may be added to the game by each player pretending that he has a destination or stopping-place, where he would wish to alight. It now becomes the aim of the two players who are "it" to carry him past his point. A player who is thus carried beyond his imaginary stopping-place must feign a violent passion, and imitate angry gesticulations. He may, in addition, feign a great age or a painful infirmity, which will be found to occasion the most convulsive fun for the other players in the game.
These are the main outlines of this most amusing pastime. Many other agreeable features may, of course, be readily introduced by persons of humour and imagination.
What I narrate was told me one winter's evening by my friend Ah-Yen in the little room behind his laundry. Ah-Yen is a quiet little celestial with a grave and thoughtful face, and that melancholy contemplative disposition so often noticed in his countrymen. Between myself and Ah-Yen there exists a friendship of some years' standing, and we spend many a long evening in the dimly lighted room behind his shop, smoking a dreamy pipe together and plunged in silent meditation. I am chiefly attracted to my friend by the highly imaginative cast of his mind, which is, I believe, a trait of the Eastern character and which enables him to forget to a great extent the sordid cares of his calling in an inner life of his own creation. Of the keen, analytical side of his mind, I was in entire ignorance until the evening of which I write.
The room where we sat was small and dingy, with but little furniture except our chairs and the little table at which we filled and arranged our pipes, and was lighted only by a tallow candle. There were a few pictures on the walls, for the most part rude prints cut from the columns of the daily press and pasted up to hide the bareness of the room. Only one picture was in any way noticeable, a portrait admirably executed in pen and ink. The face was that of a young man, a very beautiful face, but one of infinite sadness. I had long been aware, although I know not how, that Ah-Yen had met with a great sorrow, and had in some way connected the fact with this portrait. I had always refrained, however, from asking him about it, and it was not until the evening in question that I knew its history.
We had been smoking in silence for some time when Ah-Yen spoke. My friend is a man of culture and wide reading, and his English is consequently perfect in its construction; his speech is, of course, marked by the lingering liquid accent of his country which I will not attempt to reproduce.
"I see," he said, "that you have been examining the portrait of my unhappy friend, Fifty-Six. I have never yet told you of my bereavement, but as to-night is the anniversary of his death, I would fain speak of him for a while."
Ah-Yen paused; I lighted my pipe afresh, and nodded to him to show that I was listening.
"I do not know," he went on, "at what precise time Fifty-Six came into my life. I could indeed find it out by examining my books, but I have never troubled to do so. Naturally I took no more interest in him at first than in any other of my customers—less, perhaps, since he never in the course of our connection brought his clothes to me himself but always sent them by a boy. When I presently perceived that he was becoming one of my regular customers, I allotted to him his number, Fifty-Six, and began to speculate as to who and what he was. Before long I had reached several conclusions in regard to my unknown client. The quality of his linen showed me that, if not rich, he was at any rate fairly well off. I could see that he was a young man of regular Christian life, who went out into society to a certain extent; this I could tell from his sending the same number of articles to the laundry, from his washing always coming on Saturday night, and from the fact that he wore a dress shirt about once a week. In disposition he was a modest, unassuming fellow, for his collars were only two inches high."
I stared at Ah-Yen in some amazement, the recent publications of a favourite novelist had rendered me familiar with this process of analytical reasoning, but I was prepared for no such revelations from my Eastern friend.
"When I first knew him," Ah-Yen went on, "Fifty-Six was a student at the university. This, of course, I did not know for some time. I inferred it, however, in the course of time, from his absence from town during the four summer months, and from the fact that during the time of the university examinations the cuffs of his shirts came to me covered with dates, formulas, and propositions in geometry. I followed him with no little interest through his university career. During the four years which it lasted, I washed for him every week; my regular connection with him and the insight which my observation gave me into the lovable character of the man, deepened my first esteem into a profound affection and I became most anxious for his success. I helped him at each succeeding examination, as far as lay in my power, by starching his shirts half-way to the elbow, so as to leave him as much room as possible for annotations. My anxiety during the strain of his final examination I will not attempt to describe. That Fifty-Six was undergoing the great crisis of his academic career, I could infer from the state of his handkerchiefs which, in apparent unconsciousness, he used as pen-wipers during the final test. His conduct throughout the examination bore witness to the moral development which had taken place in his character during his career as an undergraduate; for the notes upon his cuffs which had been so copious at his earlier examinations were limited now to a few hints, and these upon topics so intricate as to defy an ordinary memory. It was with a thrill of joy that I at last received in his laundry bundle one Saturday early in June, a ruffled dress shirt, the bosom of which was thickly spattered with the spillings of the wine-cup, and realized that Fifty-Six had banqueted as a Bachelor of Arts.
"In the following winter the habit of wiping his pen upon his handkerchief, which I had remarked during his final examination, became chronic with him, and I knew that he had entered upon the study of law. He worked hard during that year, and dress shirts almost disappeared from his weekly bundle. It was in the following winter, the second year of his legal studies, that the tragedy of his life began. I became aware that a change had come over his laundry; from one, or at most two a week, his dress shirts rose to four, and silk handkerchiefs began to replace his linen ones. It dawned upon me that Fifty-Six was abandoning the rigorous tenor of his student life and was going into society. I presently perceived something more; Fifty-Six was in love. It was soon impossible to doubt it. He was wearing seven shirts a week; linen handkerchiefs disappeared from his laundry; his collars rose from two inches to two and a quarter, and finally to two and a half. I have in my possession one of his laundry lists of that period; a glance at it will show the scrupulous care which he bestowed upon his person. Well do I remember the dawning hopes of those days, alternating with the gloomiest despair. Each Saturday I opened his bundle with a trembling eagerness to catch the first signs of a return of his love. I helped my friend in every way that I could. His shirts and collars were masterpieces of my art, though my hand often shook with agitation as I applied the starch. She was a brave noble girl, that I knew; her influence was elevating the whole nature of Fifty-Six; until now he had had in his possession a certain number of detached cuffs and false shirt-fronts. These he discarded now,—at first the false shirt-fronts, scorning the very idea of fraud, and after a time, in his enthusiasm, abandoning even the cuffs. I cannot look back upon those bright happy days of courtship without a sigh.