THE WIT AND HUMOR OF AMERICA
In Ten Volumes
THE WIT AND HUMOR OF AMERICA
EDITED BY MARSHALL P. WILDER
Funk & Wagnalls Company New York and London
Copyright MDCCCCVII, BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY Copyright MDCCCCXI, THE THWING COMPANY
PAGE Anatole Dubois at de Horse Show Wallace Bruce Amsbary 152 Billville Spirit Meeting, The Frank L. Stanton 188 British Matron, The Nathaniel Hawthorne 192 Champion Checker-Player of Ameriky, The James Whitcomb Riley 156 Colonel Sterett's Panther Hunt Alfred Henry Lewis 98 Cry from the Consumer, A Wilbur D. Nesbit 190 Curse of the Competent, The Henry J. Finn 14 Darby and Joan St. John Honeywood 166 Day We Do Not Celebrate, The Robert J. Burdette 134 Deacon's Masterpiece, The; or, The Wonderful "One-Hoss Shay" O.W. Holmes 9 Deacon's Trout, The Henry Ward Beecher 212 Disappointment, A John Boyle O'Reilly 191 Distichs John Hay 65 Down Around the River James Whitcomb Riley 29 Enough Tom Masson 213 Experiences of the A.C., The Bayard Taylor 116 Feast of the Monkeys, The John Philip Sousa 183 Fighting Race, The Joseph I.C. Clarke 214 Grammatical Boy, The Bill Nye 16 Grizzly-Gru Ironquill 174 John Henry in a Street Car Hugh McHugh 177 Laffing Josh Billings 171 Letter from Mr. Biggs, A E.W. Howe 69 Medieval Discoverer, A Bill Nye 31 Melons Bret Harte 1 Menagerie, The William Vaughn Moody 24 Mrs. Johnson William Dean Howells 74 Muskeeter, The Josh Billings 181 My Grandmother's Turkey-Tail Fan Samuel Minturn Peck 219 Myopia Wallace Rice 151 Odyssey of K's, An Wilbur D. Nesbit 209 Old Maid's House, The: In Plan Elizabeth Stuart Phelps 60 Organ, The Henry Ward Beecher 217 Partingtonian Patchwork B.P. Shillaber 20 Pass Ironquill 91 Pettibone Lineage, The James T. Fields 196 Psalm of Life, A Phoebe Cary 207 Purple Cow, The Gelett Burgess 13 Quarrel, The S.E. Kiser 68 Similar Cases Charlotte Perkins Gilman 56 Simple English Ray Clarke Rose 19 Spelling Down the Master Edward Eggleston 138 Stage Whispers Carolyn Wells 195 Teaching by Example John G. Saxe 91 Tragedy of It, The Alden Charles Noble 194 Turnings of a Bookworm, The Carolyn Wells 182 Wanted—A Cook Alan Dale 35 What Mr. Robinson Thinks James Russell Lowell 131 When Albani Sang William Henry Drummond 92 When the Frost is on the Punkin James Whitcomb Riley 169 Why Moles Have Hands Anne Virginia Culbertson 202 Wouter Van Twiller Washington Irving 109 Yankee Dude'll Do, The S.E. Kiser 136
COMPLETE INDEX AT END OF VOLUME X.
EMBODYING A FEW REMARKS ON THE GENTLE ART OF LAUGH-MAKING.
BY MARSHALL P. WILDER.
Happiness and laughter are two of the most beautiful things in the world, for they are of the few that are purely unselfish. Laughter is not for yourself, but for others. When people are happy they present a cheerful spirit, which finds its reflection in every one they meet, for happiness is as contagious as a yawn. Of all the emotions, laughter is the most versatile, for it plays equally well the role of either parent or child to happiness.
Then can we say too much in praise of the men who make us laugh? God never gave a man a greater gift than the power to make others laugh, unless it is the privilege of laughing himself. We honor, revere, admire our great soldiers, statesmen, and men of letters, but we love the man who makes us laugh.
No other man to-day enjoys to such an extent the close personal affection, individual yet national, that is given to Mr. Samuel L. Clemens. He is ours, he is one of us, we have a personal pride in him—dear "Mark Twain," the beloved child of the American nation. And it was through our laughter that he won our love.
He is the exponent of the typically American style of fun-making, the humorous story. I asked Mr. Clemens one day if he could remember the first money he ever earned. With his inimitable drawl he said:
"Yes, Marsh, it was at school. All boys had the habit of going to school in those days, and they hadn't any more respect for the desks than they had for the teachers. There was a rule in our school that any boy marring his desk, either with pencil or knife, would be chastised publicly before the whole school, or pay a fine of five dollars. Besides the rule, there was a ruler; I knew it because I had felt it; it was a darned hard one, too. One day I had to tell my father that I had broken the rule, and had to pay a fine or take a public whipping; and he said:
"'Sam, it would be too bad to have the name of Clemens disgraced before the whole school, so I'll pay the fine. But I don't want you to lose anything, so come upstairs.'
"I went upstairs with father, and he was for-giving me. I came downstairs with the feeling in one hand and the five dollars in the other, and decided that as I'd been punished once, and got used to it, I wouldn't mind taking the other licking at school. So I did, and I kept the five dollars. That was the first money I ever earned."
The humorous story as expounded by Mark Twain, Artemus Ward, and Robert J. Burdette, is purely American. Artemus Ward could get laughs out of nothing, by mixing the absurd and the unexpected, and then backing the combination with a solemn face and earnest manner. For instance, he was fond of such incongruous statements as: "I once knew a man in New Zealand who hadn't a tooth in his head," here he would pause for some time, look reminiscent, and continue: "and yet he could beat a base-drum better than any man I ever knew."
Robert J. Burdette, who wrote columns of capital humor for The Burlington Hawkeye and told stories superbly, on his first visit to New York was spirited to a notable club, where he told stories leisurely until half the hearers ached with laughter, and the other half were threatened with apoplexy. Everyone present declared it the red-letter night of the club, and members who had missed it came around and demanded the stories at secondhand. Some efforts were made to oblige them, but without avail, for the tellers had twisted their recollections of the stories into jokes, and they didn't sound right, so a committee hunted the town for Burdette to help them out of their difficulty.
Humor is the kindliest method of laugh-making. Wit and satire are ancient, but humor, it has been claimed, belongs to modern times. A certain type of story, having a sudden and terse conclusion to a direct statement, has been labeled purely American. For instance: "Willie Jones loaded and fired a cannon yesterday. The funeral will be to-morrow." But the truth is, it is older than America; it is very venerable. If you will turn to the twelfth verse of the sixteenth chapter of II. Chronicles, you will read:
"And Asa in the thirty-ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great; yet in his disease he sought not the Lord, but turned to the physicians—and Asa slept with his fathers."
Bill Nye was a sturdy and persistent humorist of so good a sort that he never could help being humorous, yet there was never a sting in his jokes. Gentle raillery was the severest thing he ever attempted, and even this he did with so genial a smile and so merry an eye, that a word of his friendly chaffing was worth more than any amount of formal praise.
Few of the great world's great despatches contained so much wisdom in so few words as Nye's historic wire from Washington:
"My friends and money gave out at 3 A.M."
Eugene Field, the lover of little children, and the self-confessed bibliomaniac, gives us still another sort of laugh—the tender, indulgent sort. Nothing could be finer than the gentle reminiscence of "Long Ago," a picture of the lost kingdom of boyhood, which for all its lightness holds a pathos that clutches one in the throat.
And yet this writer of delicate and subtle humor, this master of tender verse, had a keen and nimble wit. An ambitious poet once sent him a poem to read entitled "Why do I live?" and Field immediately wrote back: "Because you sent your poem by mail."
Laughter is one of the best medicines in the world, and though some people would make you force it down with a spoon, there is no doubt that it is a splendid tonic and awakens the appetite for happiness.
Colonel Ingersoll wrote on his photograph which adorns my home: "To the man who knows that mirth is medicine and laughter lengthens life."
Abraham Lincoln, that divinely tender man, believed that fun was an intellectual impetus, for he read Artemus Ward to his Cabinet before reading his famous emancipation proclamation, and laying down his book marked the place to resume.
Joel Chandler Harris, whose delightful stories of negro life hold such a high place in American literature, told me a story of an old negro who claimed that a sense of humor was necessary to happiness in married life. He said:
"I met a poor old darkey one day, pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with cooking utensils and household effects. Seeing me looking curiously at him, he shook his head and said:
"'I cain't stand her no longer, boss, I jes' nash'ully cain't stand her no longer.'
"'What's the matter, uncle?' I inquired.
"'Well, you see, suh, she ain't got no idee o' fun—she won't take a joke nohow. The other night I went home, an' I been takin' a little jes' to waam ma heart—das all, jes to waam ma heart—an' I got to de fence, an' tried to climb it. I got on de top, an' thar I stays; I couldn't git one way or t'other. Then a gem'en comes along, an' I says, "Would you min' givin' me a push?" He says, "Which way you want to go?" I says, "Either way—don't make no dif'unce, jes' so I git off de fence, for hit's pow'ful oncom'fable up yer." So he give me a push, an' sont me over to'ard ma side, an' I went home. Then I want sum'in t' eat, an' my ol' 'ooman she wouldn' git it fo' me, an' so, jes' fo' a joke, das all—jes' a joke, I hit 'er awn de haid. But would you believe it, she couldn't take a joke. She tu'n aroun', an' sir, she sail inter me sum'in' scan'lous! I didn' do nothin', 'cause I feelin' kind o'weak jes' then—an' so I made up ma min' I wasn' goin' to stay with her. Dis mawnin' she gone out washin', an' I jes' move right out. Hit's no use tryin' to live with a 'ooman who cain't take a joke!'"
From the poems of Thomas Bailey Aldrich to George Ade's Fables in Slang is a far cry, but one is as typical a style of humor as the other. Ade's is the more distinctly original, for he not only created the style, but another language. The aptness of its turns, and the marvelous way in which he hit the bull's-eye of human foibles and weaknesses lifted him into instantaneous popularity. A famous bon mot of George Ade's which has been quoted threadbare, but which serves excellently to illustrate his native wit, is his remark about a suit of clothes which the tailor assured him he could never wear out. He said when he put them on he didn't dare to.
From the laughter-makers pure and simple, we come to those who, while acknowledging the cloud, yet see the silver lining—the exponents of the smile through tears.
The best of these, Frank L. Stanton, has beautifully said:
"This world that we're a-livin' in Is mighty hard to beat; With every rose you get a thorn, But ain't the roses sweet?"
He does not deny the thorns, but calls attention to the sweetness of the roses—a gospel of compensation that speaks to the heart of all; kind words of cheer to the weary traveler.
Such a philosopher was the kind-hearted and sympathetic Irish boy who, walking along with the parish priest, met a weary organ-grinder, who asked how far it was to the next town. The boy answered, "Four miles." The priest remonstrated:
"Why, Mike, how can you deceive him so? You know it is eight."
"Well, your riverence," said the good-natured fellow, "I saw how tired he was, and I wanted to kape his courage up. If I'd told him the truth, he'd have been down-hearted intirely!"
This is really a jolly old world, and people are very apt to find just what they are looking for. If they are looking for happiness, the best way to find it is to try to give it to others. If a man goes around with a face as long as a wet day, perfectly certain that he is going to be kicked, he is seldom disappointed.
A typical exponent of the tenderly human, the tearfully humorous, is James Whitcomb Riley—a name to conjure with. Only mention it to anyone, and note the spark of interest, the smiling sigh, the air of gentle retrospection into which he will fall. There is a poem for each and every one, that commends itself for some special reason, and holds such power of memory or sentiment as sends it straight into the heart, to remain there treasured and unforgotten.
In these volumes are selections from the pen of all whom I have mentioned, as well as many more, including a number by the clever women humorists, of whom America is justly proud.
It is with pride and pleasure that I acknowledge the honor done me in being asked to introduce this company of fun-makers—such a goodly number that space permits the mention of but a few. But we cannot have too much or even enough of anything so good or so necessary as the literature that makes us laugh. In that regard we are like a little friend of Mr. Riley's.
The Hoosier poet, as everyone knows, is the devoted friend, companion, and singer of children. He has a habit of taking them on wild orgies where they are turned loose in a candy store and told to do their worst. This particular young lady had been allowed to choose all the sorts of candy she liked until her mouth, both arms, and her pockets were full. Just as they got to the door to go out, she hung back, and when Mr. Riley stooped over asking her what was the matter, she whispered:
"Don't you think it smells like ice cream?"
Poems, stories, humorous articles, fables, and fairy tales are offered for your choice, with subjects as diverse as the styles; but however the laugh is gained, in whatever fashion the jest is delivered, the laugh-maker is a public benefactor, for laughter is the salt of life, and keeps the whole dish sweet.
Merrily yours, MARSHALL P. WILDER.
ATLANTIC CITY, 1908.
Acknowledgment is due to the following publishers, whose permission was cordially granted to reprint selections which appear in this collection of American humor.
AINSLEE'S MAGAZINE for "Not According to Schedule," by Mary Stewart Cutting.
THE HENRY ALTEMUS COMPANY for "The New Version," by William J. Lampton.
THE AMERICAN PUBLISHING COMPANY for "How We Bought a Sewin' Machine and Organ," from Josiah Allen's Wife as a P.A. and P.I., by Marietta Holley.
D. APPLETON & COMPANY for "The Recruit," from With the Band, by Robert W. Chambers.
E.H. BACON & COMPANY for "The V-a-s-e" and "A Concord Love-Song," from The V-a-s-e and Other Bric-a-Brac, by James Jeffrey Roche.
THE H.M. CALDWELL COMPANY for "Yes" and "Disappointment," from In Bohemia, by John Boyle O'Reilly.
THE COLVER PUBLISHING HOUSE for "The Crimson Cord," by Ellis Parker Butler, and "A Ballade of the 'How to' Books," by John James Davies, from The American Illustrated Magazine.
THE CROWELL PUBLISHING COMPANY for "Familiar Authors at Work," by Hayden Carruth, from The Woman's Home Companion.
THE CURTIS PUBLISHING COMPANY for "The Love Sonnets of a Husband," by Maurice Smiley, and "Cheer for the Consumer," by Nixon Waterman, from The Saturday Evening Post.
DEWOLFE, FISKE & COMPANY for "Grandma Keeler Gets Grandpa Ready for Sunday-School," from Cape Cod Folks, by Sarah P. McLean Greene.
DICK & FITZGERALD for "The Thompson Street Poker Club," from The Thompson Street Poker Club, by Henry Guy Carleton.
G.W. DILLINGHAM COMPANY for "The Tower of London" and "Science and Natural History," by Charles Farrar Browne ("Artemus Ward"); "The Musketeer," from Farmer's Alminax, and "Laffing," from Josh Billings: His Works, by Henry W. Shaw ("Josh Billings"); and for "John Henry in a Street Car," from John Henry, by George V. Hobart ("Hugh McHugh").
DODD, MEAD & COMPANY for "The Rhyme of the Chivalrous Shark," "The Forbearance of the Admiral," "The Dutiful Mariner," "The Meditations of a Mariner" and "The Boat that Ain't," from Nautical Lays of a Landsman, by Wallace Irwin.
THE DUQUESNE DISTRIBUTING COMPANY for "The Grand Opera," from Billy Baxter's Letters, by William J. Kountz, Jr.
PAUL ELDER & COMPANY for Sonnets I, VIII, IX, XII, XIV, XXI, from The Love Sonnets of a Hoodlum, by Wallace Irwin.
EVERYBODY'S MAGAZINE for "The Strike of One," by Elliott Flower; "The Wolf's Holiday," by Caroline Duer; "A Mother of Four," by Juliet Wilbor Tompkins; "The Weddin'," by Jennie Betts Hartswick, and "A Double-Dyed Deceiver," by Sydney Porter ("O. Henry").
THE FEDERAL BOOK COMPANY for "Budge and Toddie," from Helen's Babies, by John Habberton.
FORDS, HOWARD & HURLBURT, for "The Deacon's Trout," from Norwood, by Henry Ward Beecher.
FOX, DUFFIELD & COMPANY for "The Paintermine," "The Octopussycat," "The Welsh Rabbittern," "The Bumblebeaver," "The Wild Boarder," from Mixed Beasts, by Kenyon Cox; "The Lost Inventor," "Niagara Be Dammed," "The Ballad of Grizzly Gulch," "A Letter from Home," "Crankidoxology" and "Fall Styles in Faces," from At the Sign of the Dollar, by Wallace Irwin, and a selection from The Golfer's Rubaiyat, by Henry W. Boynton.
THE HARVARD LAMPOON for "A Lay of Ancient Rome," by Thomas Ybarra.
HENRY HOLT & COMPANY for "Araminta and the Automobile," from Cheerful Americans, by Charles Battell Loomis.
HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & COMPANY for "A Letter from Mr. Biggs," from The Story of a Country Town, by E.W. Howe; "The Notary of Perigueux," from Outre-Mer, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; "A Nautical Ballad," from Davy and the Goblin, by Charles E. Carryl; "The Spring Beauties," from The Ride to the Lady, by Helen Avery Cone; "Praise-God Barebones," from Songs and Lyrics, by Ellen M. Hutchinson-Cortissoz; "Fable," from Poems, by Ralph Waldo Emerson; "The Owl Critic" and "Caesar's Quiet Lunch with Cicero," from Ballads and Other Poems, by James T. Fields; "The Menagerie," from Poems, by William Vaughn Moody; "The Briefless Barrister," "Comic Miseries," "A Reflective Retrospect," "How the Money Goes," "The Coquette," "Icarus," "Teaching by Example," from Poems, by John Godfrey Saxe; "My Honey, My Love," by Joel Chandler Harris; "Banty Tim," "The Mystery of Gilgal" and "Distichs," from Poems, by John Hay; "The Deacon's Masterpiece, or The Wonderful One Hoss Shay," "The Height of the Ridiculous," "Evening, By a Tailor," "Latter Day Warnings," and "Contentment," from Poems, by Oliver Wendell Holmes; two selections from The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table, by Oliver Wendell Holmes, and "Dislikes," from The Poet at the Breakfast Table, by Oliver Wendell Holmes; "Plain Language from Truthful James," and "The Society Upon the Stanislaus," from Poems, by Bret Harte; "Melons," from Mrs. Skaggs' Husbands and Other Sketches, by Bret Harte; "The Courtin'," "A Letter from Mr. Ezekiel Biglow" and "What Mr. Robinson Thinks," from Poems, by James Russell Lowell; "The Chief Mate," from Fireside Travels, by James Russell Lowell; "A Night in a Rocking Chair" and "A Rival Entertainment," from Haphazard, by Kate Field; "Mrs. Johnson," from Suburban Sketches, by William Dean Howells; "Garden Ethics," from My Summer in a Garden, by Charles Dudley Warner; "Our Nearest Neighbor," from Marjorie Daw and Other Stories, by Thomas Bailey Aldrich; "Simon Starts in the World" (J.J. Hooper), "The Duluth Speech" (J. Proctor Knott), "Bill Arp on Litigation" (C.H. Smith), "Assault and Battery" (J.G. Baldwin), "How Ruby Played" (G.W. Bagby), from Oddities of Southern Life, edited by Henry Watterson; "The Demon of the Study," from Poems, by John Greenleaf Whittier; "The Old Maid's House: in Plan," from An Old Maid's Paradise, by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps; "Dum Vivimus Vigilamus," "What She Said About It," "Dictum Sapienti," "The Lost Word" and "Abou Ben Butler," from Poems, by Charles Henry Webb ("John Paul"); "Chad's Story of the Goose" and "Colonel Carter's Story of the Postmaster," from Colonel Carter of Cartersville, by F. Hopkinson Smith; "The British Matron," from Our Old Home, by Nathaniel Hawthorne; "As Good as a Play," from Stories from My Attic, by Horace E. Scudder; "The Pettibone Lineage," by James T. Fields; "The Experiences of the A.C.," by Bayard Taylor; "Eve's Daughter," by Edward Rowland Sill, and "The Diamond Wedding," by Edmund Clarence Stedman.
WILLIAM R. JENKINS for "It Is Time to Begin to Conclude," from Soldier Songs and Love Songs, by Alexander H. Laidlaw.
JOHN LANE COMPANY for "The Invisible Prince," from Comedies and Errors, by Henry Harland.
LIFE PUBLISHING COMPANY for "Hard," "Enough" and "Desolation," from In Merry Measure, by Tom Masson; "A Branch Library" and "Table Manners," from Tomfoolery, by James Montgomery Flagg; "The Sonnet of the Lovable Lass and the Plethoric Dad," by J.W. Foley; "Thoughts for an Easter Morning," by Wallace Irwin; "Suppressed Chapters," by Carolyn Wells; "The Conscientious Curate and the Beauteous Ballad Girl," by William Russell Rose, and "A Poe-'em of Passion," by Charles F. Lummis.
LIPPINCOTT'S MAGAZINE for "The Modern Farmer," by Jack Appleton; "The Wicked Zebra" and "The Happy Land," by Frank Roe Batchelder; "A Mothers' Meeting," by Madeline Bridges; "The Final Choice" and "A Daniel Come to Judgment," by Edmund Vance Cooke; "The Co-operative Housekeepers" and "Her 'Angel' Father," by Elliott Flower; "Wasted Opportunities," by Roy Farrell Greene; "The Auto Rubaiyat," by Reginald W. Kauffman; "It Pays to be Happy" and "Victory," by Tom Masson; "Is It I?" by Warwick S. Price; "Johnny's Lessons," by Carroll Watson Rankin; "Her Brother: Enfant Terrible" and "Trouble-Proof," by E.L. Sabin; "A Bookworm's Plaint," by Clinton Scollard; "Nothin' Done," by S.S. Stinson, and "Uncle Bentley and the Roosters," by Hayden Carruth.
LITTLE, BROWN & COMPANY for "Elizabeth Eliza Writes a Paper," from The Peterkin Papers, by Lucretia P. Hale; "The Skeleton in the Closet," by Edward Everett Hale, and "The Wolf at Susan's Door," from The Wolf at Susan's Door and Mrs. Lathrop's Love Affair, by Anne Warner.
LOTHROP, LEE & SHEPARD for "A Letter," from Swingin' Round the Circle, by David Ross Locke ("P. V. Nasby"); "A Cable Car Preacher" and "The Prayer of Cyrus Brown," from Dreams in Homespun, by Sam Walter Foss; "He Wanted to Know," "Hullo!" and "She Talked," from Back Country Poems, by Sam Walter Foss; "Mr. Stiver's Horse" and "After the Funeral," from the works of James M. Bailey (The Danbury News Man); "Yawcob Strauss," "Der Oak und der Vine," "To Bary Jade" and "Shonny Schwartz," from Leetle Yawcob Strauss, by Charles Follen Adams; "The Coupon Bonds" and "Darius Greene," from the works of J.T. Trowbridge, and Chapters VII, IX, XVI, XX, XXI, from "Partingtonian Patchwork," by B.P. Shillaber.
THE S.S. MCCLURE COMPANY and MCCLURE, PHILLIPS & COMPANY for "Morris and the Honorable Tim," from Little Citizens, by Myra Kelly.
A.C. MCCLURG & COMPANY for "Simple English," from At the Sign of the Ginger Jar, by Ray Clarke Rose, and "Ye Legende of Sir Yroncladde," by Wilbur D. Nesbit, from The Athlete's Garland.
DAVID MCKAY for "Hans Breitmann's Party," "Breitmann and the Turners," "Ballad," "Breitmann in Politics" and "Love Song," from Hans Breitmann's Ballads, by Charles Godfrey Leland, and "A Boston Ballad," from Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman.
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY for "In a State of Sin," from The Virginian, by Owen Wister.
THE MONARCH BOOK COMPANY for "The Apostasy of William Dodge," from The Seekers, by Stanley Waterloo.
THE FRANK A. MUNSEY COMPANY for "An Educational Project" and "The Woman-Hater Reformed," by Roy Farrell Greene; "The Trial That Job Missed," by Kennett Harris; "The Education of Grandpa," by Wallace Irwin; "An Improved Calendar," by Tudor Jenks.
SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY for "Mr. Dooley on Gold Seeking," "Mr. Dooley on Expert Testimony," "Mr. Dooley on Golf," "Mr. Dooley on Football," "Mr. Dooley on Reform Candidates," from Mr. Dooley in Peace and War, by Finley Peter Dunne; "E.O.R.S.W." from Alphabet of Celebrities, by Oliver Herford; "A Letter," from The Letters of a Self-Made Merchant to His Son, by George Horace Lorimer; "Vive La Bagatelle" and "Willy and the Lady," from A Gage of Youth, by Gelett Burgess; "When the Allegash Drive Goes Through," from Pine Tree Ballads, by Holman F. Day; "Had a Set of Double Teeth," from Up in Maine, by Holman F. Day; "Similar Cases," from In This Our World, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman; "Barney McGee," by Richard Hovey, from More Songs from Vagabondia; "A Modern Eclogue," "The Sceptics," "A Staccato to O le Lupe," "A Spring Feeling," "Her Valentine" and "In Philistia," by Bliss Carman, from Last Songs from Vagabondia, and "Vive la Bagatelle," "A Cavalier's Valentine" and "Holly Song," from Hills of Song, by Clinton Scollard.
THE MUTUAL BOOK COMPANY for "James and Reginald" and "The Story of the Two Friars," from The Tribune Primer, by Eugene Field.
THE ORANGE JUDD COMPANY for "Spelling Down the Master," from The Hoosier Schoolmaster, by Edward Eggleston.
JAMES POTT & COMPANY for "The Gusher," from I've Been Thinking, by Charles Battell Loomis.
G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS for "When Albani Sang" and "The Stove Pipe Hole," from The Habitant, by William Henry Drummond; "National Philosophy," from The Voyageur, by William Henry Drummond; "The Siege of Djklxprwbz," "Grizzly-gru," "He and She," "The Jackpot," "A Shining Mark," "The Reason," "Pass" and "The Whisperer," from The Rhymes of Ironquill, by Eugene F. Ware, and "A Family Horse," from The Sparrowgrass Papers, by Frederick S. Cozzens.
RAND, MCNALLY & COMPANY for "An Arkansas Planter," from An Arkansas Planter, by Opie Read.
A.M. ROBERTSON for "The Drayman," from Songs of Bohemia, by Daniel O'Connell.
R.H. RUSSELL for "Mr. Carteret and His Fellow-Americans Abroad," by David Gray, from The Metropolitan Magazine.
THE SMART SET PUBLISHING COMPANY for "An Evening Musicale," by May Isabel Fisk, from The Smart Set.
THE FREDERICK A. STOKES COMPANY for "Colonel Sterett's Panther Hunt," from Wolfville Nights, by Alfred Henry Lewis; "The Bohemians of Boston," "The Purple Cow" and "Nonsense Verses," from The Burgess Nonsense Book, by Gelett Burgess, and "My Grandmother's Turkey-tail Fan," "Little Bopeep and Little Boy Blue" and "My Sweetheart," by Samuel Minturn Peck.
THE TANDY-WHEELER PUBLISHING COMPANY for "Utah," "A New Year Idyl," "The Warrior," "Lost Chords" and "The Advertiser," from A Little Book of Tribune Verse, by Eugene Field.
THOMPSON & THOMAS for "The Grammatical Boy," by Edgar Wilson Nye ("Bill Nye").
THE A. WESSELS COMPANY for "The Dying Gag," by James L. Ford.
M. WITMARK & SONS for "Walk," from Jim Marshall's New Pianner, by William Devere.
Special thanks are due to George Ade, Wallace Bruce Amsbary, John Kendrick Bangs, H.W. Boynton, Gelett Burgess, Ellis Parker Butler, Hayden Carruth, Robert W. Chambers, Charles Heber Clarke, Joseph I.C. Clarke, Mary Stewart Cutting, John James Davies, Caroline Duer, Mrs. Edward Eggleston, May Isabel Fisk, Elliott Flower, James L. Ford, David Gray, Sarah P. McLean Greene, Jennie Betts Hartswick, William Dean Howells, Wallace Irwin, Charles F. Johnson, S.E. Kiser, A.H. Laidlaw, Alfred Henry Lewis, Charles B. Lewis, Charles Battell Loomis, Charles F. Lummis, T.L. Masson, William Vaughn Moody, R.K. Munkittrick, W.D. Nesbit, Meredith Nicholson, Alden Charles Noble, Samuel Minturn Peck, Sydney Porter, Wallace Rice, James Whitcomb Riley, Doane Robinson, Henry A. Shute, F. Hopkinson Smith, Harriet Prescott Spofford, Howard V. Sutherland, John B. Tabb, Bert Leston Taylor, Juliet Wilbor Tompkins, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps Ward, Eugene F. Ware, Anne Warner French and Stanley Waterloo for permission to reprint selections from their works and for many valuable suggestions.
THE WIT AND HUMOR OF AMERICA
BY BRET HARTE
As I do not suppose the most gentle of readers will believe that anybody's sponsors in baptism ever wilfully assumed the responsibility of such a name, I may as well state that I have reason to infer that Melons was simply the nickname of a small boy I once knew. If he had any other, I never knew it.
Various theories were often projected by me to account for this strange cognomen. His head, which was covered with a transparent down, like that which clothes very small chickens, plainly permitting the scalp to show through, to an imaginative mind might have suggested that succulent vegetable. That his parents, recognizing some poetical significance in the fruits of the season, might have given this name to an August child, was an oriental explanation. That from his infancy, he was fond of indulging in melons, seemed on the whole the most likely, particularly as Fancy was not bred in McGinnis's Court. He dawned upon me as Melons. His proximity was indicated by shrill, youthful voices, as "Ah, Melons!" or playfully, "Hi, Melons!" or authoritatively, "You Melons!"
McGinnis's Court was a democratic expression of some obstinate and radical property-holder. Occupying a limited space between two fashionable thoroughfares, it refused to conform to circumstances, but sturdily paraded its unkempt glories, and frequently asserted itself in ungrammatical language. My window—a rear room on the ground floor—in this way derived blended light and shadow from the court. So low was the window-sill that, had I been the least disposed to somnambulism, it would have broken out under such favorable auspices, and I should have haunted McGinnis's Court. My speculations as to the origin of the court were not altogether gratuitous, for by means of this window I once saw the Past, as through a glass darkly. It was a Celtic shadow that early one morning obstructed my ancient lights. It seemed to belong to an individual with a pea-coat, a stubby pipe, and bristling beard. He was gazing intently at the court, resting on a heavy cane, somewhat in the way that heroes dramatically visit the scenes of their boyhood. As there was little of architectural beauty in the court, I came to the conclusion that it was McGinnis looking after his property. The fact that he carefully kicked a broken bottle out of the road somewhat strengthened me in the opinion. But he presently walked away, and the court knew him no more. He probably collected his rents by proxy—if he collected them at all.
Beyond Melons, of whom all this is purely introductory, there was little to interest the most sanguine and hopeful nature. In common with all such localities, a great deal of washing was done, in comparison with the visible results. There was always some thing whisking on the line, and always some thing whisking through the court, that looked as if it ought to be there. A fish-geranium—of all plants kept for the recreation of mankind, certainly the greatest illusion—straggled under the window. Through its dusty leaves I caught the first glance of Melons.
His age was about seven. He looked older from the venerable whiteness of his head, and it was impossible to conjecture his size, as he always wore clothes apparently belonging to some shapely youth of nineteen. A pair of pantaloons, that, when sustained by a single suspender, completely equipped him, formed his every-day suit. How, with this lavish superfluity of clothing, he managed to perform the surprising gymnastic feats it has been my privilege to witness, I have never been able to tell. His "turning the crab," and other minor dislocations, were always attended with success. It was not an unusual sight at any hour of the day to find Melons suspended on a line, or to see his venerable head appearing above the roofs of the outhouses. Melons knew the exact height of every fence in the vicinity, its facilities for scaling, and the possibility of seizure on the other side. His more peaceful and quieter amusements consisted in dragging a disused boiler by a large string, with hideous outcries, to imaginary fires.
Melons was not gregarious in his habits. A few youth of his own age sometimes called upon him, but they eventually became abusive, and their visits were more strictly predatory incursions for old bottles and junk which formed the staple of McGinnis's Court. Overcome by loneliness one day, Melons inveigled a blind harper into the court. For two hours did that wretched man prosecute his unhallowed calling, unrecompensed, and going round and round the court, apparently under the impression that it was some other place, while Melons surveyed him from an adjoining fence with calm satisfaction. It was this absence of conscientious motives that brought Melons into disrepute with his aristocratic neighbors. Orders were issued that no child of wealthy and pious parentage should play with him. This mandate, as a matter of course, invested Melons with a fascinating interest to them. Admiring glances were cast at Melons from nursery windows. Baby fingers beckoned to him. Invitations to tea (on wood and pewter) were lisped to him from aristocratic back-yards. It was evident he was looked upon as a pure and noble being, untrammelled by the conventionalities of parentage, and physically as well as mentally exalted above them. One afternoon an unusual commotion prevailed in the vicinity of McGinnis's Court. Looking from my window I saw Melons perched on the roof of a stable, pulling up a rope by which one "Tommy," an infant scion of an adjacent and wealthy house, was suspended in mid-air. In vain the female relatives of Tommy, congregated in the back-yard, expostulated with Melons; in vain the unhappy father shook his fist at him. Secure in his position, Melons redoubled his exertions and at last landed Tommy on the roof. Then it was that the humiliating fact was disclosed that Tommy had been acting in collusion with Melons. He grinned delightedly back at his parents, as if "by merit raised to that bad eminence." Long before the ladder arrived that was to succor him, he became the sworn ally of Melons, and, I regret to say, incited by the same audacious boy, "chaffed" his own flesh and blood below him. He was eventually taken, though, of course, Melons escaped. But Tommy was restricted to the window after that, and the companionship was limited to "Hi Melons!" and "You Tommy!" and Melons to all practical purposes, lost him forever. I looked afterward to see some signs of sorrow on Melons's part, but in vain; he buried his grief, if he had any, somewhere in his one voluminous garment.
At about this time my opportunities of knowing Melons became more extended. I was engaged in filling a void in the Literature of the Pacific Coast. As this void was a pretty large one, and as I was informed that the Pacific Coast languished under it, I set apart two hours each day to this work of filling in. It was necessary that I should adopt a methodical system, so I retired from the world and locked myself in my room at a certain hour each day, after coming from my office. I then carefully drew out my portfolio and read what I had written the day before. This would suggest some alterations, and I would carefully rewrite it. During this operation I would turn to consult a book of reference, which invariably proved extremely interesting and attractive. It would generally suggest another and better method of "filling in." Turning this method over reflectively in my mind, I would finally commence the new method which I eventually abandoned for the original plan. At this time I would become convinced that my exhausted faculties demanded a cigar. The operation of lighting a cigar usually suggested that a little quiet reflection and meditation would be of service to me, and I always allowed myself to be guided by prudential instincts. Eventually, seated by my window, as before stated, Melons asserted himself. Though our conversation rarely went further than "Hello, Mister!" and "Ah, Melons!" a vagabond instinct we felt in common implied a communion deeper than words. In this spiritual commingling the time passed, often beguiled by gymnastics on the fence or line (always with an eye to my window) until dinner was announced and I found a more practical void required my attention. An unlooked-for incident drew us in closer relation.
A sea-faring friend just from a tropical voyage had presented me with a bunch of bananas. They were not quite ripe, and I hung them before my window to mature in the sun of McGinnis's Court, whose forcing qualities were remarkable. In the mysteriously mingled odors of ship and shore which they diffused throughout my room, there was lingering reminiscence of low latitudes. But even that joy was fleeting and evanescent: they never reached maturity.
Coming home one day, as I turned the corner of that fashionable thoroughfare before alluded to, I met a small boy eating a banana. There was nothing remarkable in that, but as I neared McGinnis's Court I presently met another small boy, also eating a banana. A third small boy engaged in a like occupation obtruded a painful coincidence upon my mind. I leave the psychological reader to determine the exact co-relation between the circumstance and the sickening sense of loss that overcame me on witnessing it. I reached my room—the bananas were gone.
There was but one that knew of their existence, but one who frequented my window, but one capable of gymnastic effort to procure them, and that was—I blush to say it—Melons. Melons the depredator—Melons, despoiled by larger boys of his ill-gotten booty, or reckless and indiscreetly liberal; Melons—now a fugitive on some neighborhood house-top. I lit a cigar, and, drawing my chair to the window, sought surcease of sorrow in the contemplation of the fish-geranium. In a few moments something white passed my window at about the level of the edge. There was no mistaking that hoary head, which now represented to me only aged iniquity. It was Melons, that venerable, juvenile hypocrite.
He affected not to observe me, and would have withdrawn quietly, but that horrible fascination which causes the murderer to revisit the scene of his crime, impelled him toward my window. I smoked calmly, and gazed at him without speaking. He walked several times up and down the court with a half-rigid, half-belligerent expression of eye and shoulder, intended to represent the carelessness of innocence.
Once or twice he stopped, and putting his arms their whole length into his capacious trousers, gazed with some interest at the additional width they thus acquired. Then he whistled. The singular conflicting conditions of John Brown's body and soul were at that time beginning to attract the attention of youth, and Melons's performance of that melody was always remarkable. But to-day he whistled falsely and shrilly between his teeth. At last he met my eye. He winced slightly, but recovered himself, and going to the fence, stood for a few moments on his hands, with his bare feet quivering in the air. Then he turned toward me and threw out a conversational preliminary.
"They is a cirkis"—said Melons gravely, hanging with his back to the fence and his arms twisted around the palings—"a cirkis over yonder!"—indicating the locality with his foot—"with hosses, and hossback riders. They is a man wot rides six hosses to onct—six hosses to onct—and nary saddle"—and he paused in expectation.
Even this equestrian novelty did not affect me. I still kept a fixed gaze on Melons's eye, and he began to tremble and visibly shrink in his capacious garment. Some other desperate means—conversation with Melons was always a desperate means—must be resorted to. He recommenced more artfully.
"Do you know Carrots?"
I had a faint remembrance of a boy of that euphonious name, with scarlet hair, who was a playmate and persecutor of Melons. But I said nothing.
"Carrots is a bad boy. Killed a policeman onct. Wears a dirk knife in his boots, saw him to-day looking in your windy."
I felt that this must end here. I rose sternly and addressed Melons.
"Melons, this is all irrelevant and impertinent to the case. You took those bananas. Your proposition regarding Carrots, even if I were inclined to accept it as credible information, does not alter the material issue. You took those bananas. The offense under the Statutes of California is felony. How far Carrots may have been accessory to the fact either before or after, is not my intention at present to discuss. The act is complete. Your present conduct shows the animo furandi to have been equally clear."
By the time I had finished this exordium, Melons had disappeared, as I fully expected.
He never reappeared. The remorse that I have experienced for the part I had taken in what I fear may have resulted in his utter and complete extermination, alas, he may not know, except through these pages. For I have never seen him since. Whether he ran away and went to sea to reappear at some future day as the most ancient of mariners, or whether he buried himself completely in his trousers, I never shall know. I have read the papers anxiously for accounts of him. I have gone to the Police Office in the vain attempt of identifying him as a lost child. But I never saw him or heard of him since. Strange fears have sometimes crossed my mind that his venerable appearance may have been actually the result of senility, and that he may have been gathered peacefully to his fathers in a green old age. I have even had doubts of his existence, and have sometimes thought that he was providentially and mysteriously offered to fill the void I have before alluded to. In that hope I have written these pages.
THE DEACON'S MASTERPIECE
OR, THE WONDERFUL "ONE-HOSS SHAY"
A Logical Story
BY OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES
Have you heard of the wonderful one-hoss shay, That was built in such a logical way It ran a hundred years to a day, And then, of a sudden, it—ah, but stay, I'll tell you what happened without delay, Scaring the parson into fits, Frightening people out of their wits,— Have you ever heard of that, I say?
Seventeen hundred and fifty-five. Georgius Secundus was then alive,— Snuffy old drone from the German hive. That was the year when Lisbon-town Saw the earth open and gulp her down, And Braddock's army was done so brown, Left without a scalp to its crown. It was on the terrible Earthquake-day That the Deacon finished the one-hoss shay.
Now in building of chaises, I tell you what, There is always somewhere a weakest spot,— In hub, tire, felloe, in spring or thill, In panel, or crossbar, or floor, or sill, In screw, bolt, thoroughbrace,—lurking still, Find it somewhere you must and will,— Above or below, or within or without,— And that's the reason, beyond a doubt, That a chaise breaks down, but doesn't wear out.
But the Deacon swore, (as Deacons do, With an "I dew vum," or an "I tell yeou,") He would build one shay to beat the taown 'N' the keounty 'n' all the kentry raoun'; It should be so built that it couldn' break daown: —"Fur," said the Deacon, "'t's mighty plain Thut the weakes' place mus' stan' the strain; 'N' the way t' fix it, uz I maintain, Is only jest T' make that place uz strong uz the rest."
So the Deacon inquired of the village folk Where he could find the strongest oak, That couldn't be split nor bent nor broke,— That was for spokes and floor and sills; He sent for lancewood to make the thills; The crossbars were ash, from the straightest trees, The panels of whitewood, that cuts like cheese, But lasts like iron for things like these; The hubs of logs from the "Settler's ellum,"— Last of its timber,—they couldn't sell 'em, Never an axe had seen their chips, And the wedges flew from between their lips, Their blunt ends frizzled like celery-tips; Step and prop-iron, bolt and screw, Spring, tire, axle, and linchpin too, Steel of the finest, bright and blue; Thoroughbrace bison-skin, thick and wide; Boot, top, dasher, from tough old hide Found in the pit when the tanner died. That was the way he "put her through."— "There!" said the Deacon, "naow she'll dew!"
Do! I tell you, I rather guess She was a wonder, and nothing less! Colts grew horses, beards turned gray, Deacon and deaconess dropped away, Children and grandchildren—where were they? But there stood the stout old one-hoss shay As fresh as on Lisbon-earthquake-day!
EIGHTEEN HUNDRED;—It came and found The Deacon's masterpiece strong and sound. Eighteen hundred increased by ten;— "Hahnsum kerridge" they called it then. Eighteen hundred and twenty came;— Running as usual; much the same. Thirty and forty at last arrive, And then come fifty, and FIFTY-FIVE.
Little of all we value here Wakes on the morn of its hundredth year Without both feeling and looking queer. In fact, there's nothing that keeps its youth, So far as I know, but a tree and truth. (This is a moral that runs at large; Take it.—You're welcome.—No extra charge.)
FIRST OF NOVEMBER,—The Earthquake-day— There are traces of age in the one-hoss shay, A general flavor of mild decay, But nothing local, as one may say. There couldn't be,—for the Deacon's art Had made it so like in every part That there wasn't a chance for one to start. For the wheels were just as strong as the thills, And the floor was just as strong as the sills, And the panels just as strong as the floor, And the whipple-tree neither less nor more, And the back-crossbar as strong as the fore, And the spring and axle and hub encore. And yet, as a whole, it is past a doubt In another hour it will be worn out!
First of November, 'Fifty-five! This morning the parson takes a drive. Now, small boys, get out of the way! Here comes the wonderful one-hoss shay, Drawn by a rat-tailed, ewe-necked bay. "Huddup!" said the parson.—Off went they. The parson was working his Sunday's text,— Had got to fifthly, and stopped perplexed At what the—Moses—was coming next. All at once the horse stood still, Close by the meet'n'-house on the hill. —First a shiver, and then a thrill, Then something decidedly like a spill,— And the parson was sitting upon a rock, At half past nine by the meet'n'-house clock,— Just the hour of the Earthquake shock! —What do you think the parson found, When he got up and stared around? The poor old chaise in a heap or mound, As if it had been to the mill and ground! You see, of course, if you're not a dunce, How it went to pieces all at once,— All at once, and nothing first,— Just as bubbles do when they burst.
End of the wonderful one-hoss shay. Logic is logic. That's all I say.
THE PURPLE COW
BY GELETT BURGESS
Reflections on a Mythic Beast, Who's Quite Remarkable, at Least.
I never Saw a Purple Cow; I never Hope to See One; But I can Tell you, Anyhow, I'd rather See than Be One.
Cinq Ans Apres.
(Confession: and a Portrait, Too, Upon a Background that I Rue!)
Ah, yes! I wrote the "Purple Cow"— I'm Sorry, now, I Wrote it! But I can Tell you, Anyhow, I'll Kill you if you Quote it!
THE CURSE OF THE COMPETENT
BY HENRY J. FINN
My spirit hath been seared, as though the lightning's scathe had rent, In the swiftness of its wrath, through the midnight firmament, The darkly deepening clouds; and the shadows dim and murky Of destiny are on me, for my dinner's naught but—turkey.
The chords upon my silent lute no soft vibrations know, Save where the meanings of despair—out-breathings of my woe— Tell of the cold and selfish world. In melancholy mood, The soul of genius chills with only—fourteen cords of wood.
The dreams of the deserted float around my curtained hours, And young imaginings are as the thorns bereft of flowers; A wretched outcast from mankind, my strength of heart has sank Beneath the evils of—ten thousand dollars in the bank.
This life to me a desert is, and kindness, as the stream That singly drops upon the waste where burning breezes teem; A banished, blasted plant, I droop, to which no freshness lends Its healing balm, for Heaven knows, I've but—a dozen friends.
And Sorrow round my brow has wreathed its coronal of thorns; No dewy pearl of Pleasure my sad sunken eyes adorns; Calamity has clothed my thoughts, I feel a bliss no more,— Alas! my wardrobe now would only—stock a clothing store.
The joyousness of Memory from me for aye hath fled; It dwells within the dreary habitation of the dead; I breathe my midnight melodies in languor and by stealth, For Fate inflicts upon my frame—the luxury of health.
Envy, Neglect, and Scorn have been my hard inheritance; And a baneful curse clings to me, like the stain on innocence; My moments are as faded leaves, or roses in their blight— I'm asked but once a day to dine—to parties every night.
Would that I were a silver ray upon the moonlit air, Or but one gleam that's glorified by each Peruvian's prayer! My tortured spirit turns from earth, to ease its bitter loathing; My hatred is on all things here, because—I want for nothing.
THE GRAMMATICAL BOY
BY BILL NYE
Sometimes a sad, homesick feeling comes over me, when I compare the prevailing style of anecdote and school literature with the old McGuffey brand, so well known thirty years ago. To-day our juvenile literature, it seems to me, is so transparent, so easy to understand, that I am not surprised to learn that the rising generation shows signs of lawlessness.
Boys to-day do not use the respectful language and large, luxuriant words that they did when Mr. McGuffey used to stand around and report their conversations for his justly celebrated school reader. It is disagreeable to think of, but it is none the less true, and for one I think we should face the facts.
I ask the careful student of school literature to compare the following selection, which I have written myself with great care, and arranged with special reference to the matter of choice and difficult words, with the flippant and commonplace terms used in the average school book of to-day.
One day as George Pillgarlic was going to his tasks, and while passing through the wood, he spied a tall man approaching in an opposite direction along the highway.
"Ah!" thought George, in a low, mellow tone of voice, "whom have we here?"
"Good morning, my fine fellow," exclaimed the stranger, pleasantly. "Do you reside in this locality?"
"Indeed I do," retorted George, cheerily, doffing his cap. "In yonder cottage, near the glen, my widowed mother and her thirteen children dwell with me."
"And is your father dead?" exclaimed the man, with a rising inflection.
"Extremely so," murmured the lad, "and, oh, sir, that is why my poor mother is a widow."
"And how did your papa die?" asked the man, as he thoughtfully stood on the other foot a while.
"Alas! sir," said George, as a large hot tear stole down his pale cheek and fell with a loud report on the warty surface of his bare foot, "he was lost at sea in a bitter gale. The good ship foundered two years ago last Christmastide, and father was foundered at the same time. No one knew of the loss of the ship and that the crew was drowned until the next spring, and it was then too late."
"And what is your age, my fine fellow?" quoth the stranger.
"If I live till next October," said the boy, in a declamatory tone of voice suitable for a Second Reader, "I will be seven years of age."
"And who provides for your mother and her large family of children?" queried the man.
"Indeed, I do, sir," replied George, in a shrill tone. "I toil, oh, so hard, sir, for we are very, very poor, and since my elder sister, Ann, was married and brought her husband home to live with us, I have to toil more assiduously than heretofore."
"And by what means do you obtain a livelihood?" exclaimed the man, in slowly measured and grammatical words.
"By digging wells, kind sir," replied George, picking up a tired ant as he spoke and stroking it on the back. "I have a good education, and so I am able to dig wells as well as a man. I do this day-times and take in washing at night. In this way I am enabled barely to maintain our family in a precarious manner; but, oh, sir, should my other sisters marry, I fear that some of my brothers-in-law would have to suffer."
"And do you not fear the deadly fire-damp?" asked the stranger in an earnest tone.
"Not by a damp sight," answered George, with a low gurgling laugh, for he was a great wag.
"You are indeed a brave lad," exclaimed the stranger, as he repressed a smile. "And do you not at times become very weary and wish for other ways of passing your time?"
"Indeed, I do, sir," said the lad. "I would fain run and romp and be gay like other boys, but I must engage in constant manual exercise, or we will have no bread to eat, and I have not seen a pie since papa perished in the moist and moaning sea."
"And what if I were to tell you that your papa did not perish at sea, but was saved from a humid grave?" asked the stranger in pleasing tones.
"Ah, sir," exclaimed George, in a genteel manner, again doffing his cap, "I am too polite to tell you what I would say, and besides, sir, you are much larger than I am."
"But, my brave lad," said the man in low musical tones, "do you not know me, Georgie? Oh, George!"
"I must say," replied George, "that you have the advantage of me. Whilst I may have met you before, I can not at this moment place you, sir."
"My son! oh, my son!" murmured the man, at the same time taking a large strawberry mark out of his valise and showing it to the lad. "Do you not recognize your parent on your father's side? When our good ship went to the bottom, all perished save me. I swam several miles through the billows, and at last, utterly exhausted, gave up all hope of life. Suddenly I stepped on something hard. It was the United States.
"And now, my brave boy," exclaimed the man with great glee, "see what I have brought for you." It was but the work of a moment to unclasp from a shawl-strap which he held in his hand and present to George's astonished gaze a large forty-cent watermelon, which until now had been concealed by the shawl-strap.
BY RAY CLARKE ROSE
Ofttimes when I put on my gloves, I wonder if I'm sane. For when I put the right one on, The right seems to remain To be put on—that is, 'tis left; Yet if the left I don, The other one is left, and then I have the right one on. But still I have the left on right; The right one, though, is left To go right on the left right hand All right, if I am deft.
BY B.P. SHILLABER
"Are you in favor of the prohibitive law, or the license law?" asked her opposite neighbor of the relict of P.P.; corporal of the "Bloody 'Leventh."
She carefully weighed the question, as though she were selling snuff, and answered,—
"Sometimes I think I am, and then again I think I am not."
Her neighbor was perplexed, and repeated the question, varying it a little.
"Have you seen the 'Mrs. Partington Twilight Soap'?" she asked.
"Yes," was the reply; "everybody has seen that; but why?"
"Because," said the dame, "it has two sides to it, and it is hard to choose between them. Now here are my two neighbors, contagious to me on both sides—one goes for probation, t'other for licentiousness; and I think the best thing for me is to keep nuisance."
She meant neutral, of course. The neighbor admired, and smiled, while Ike lay on the floor, with his legs in the air, trying to balance Mrs. Partington's fancy waiter on his toe.
Christmas Ike was made the happy possessor of a fiddle, which he found in the morning near his stocking.
"Has he got a musical bent?" Banfield asked, of whom Mrs. Partington was buying the instrument.
"Bent, indeed!" said she; "no, he's as straight as an error."
He explained by repeating the question regarding his musical inclination.
"Yes," she replied; "he's dreadfully inclined to music since he had a drum, and I want the fiddle to see if I can't make another Pickaninny or an Old Bull of him. Jews-harps is simple, though I can't see how King David played on one of 'em, and sung his psalms at the same time; but the fiddle is best, because genius can show itself plainer on it without much noise. Some prefers a violeen; but I don't know."
The fiddle was well improved, till the horsehair all pulled out of the bow, and it was then twisted up into a fish-line.
"How limpid you walk!" said a voice behind us, as we were making a hundred and fifty horse-power effort to reach a table whereon reposed a volume of Bacon. "What is the cause of your lameness?" It was Mrs. Partington's voice that spoke, and Mrs. Partington's eyes that met the glance we returned over our left shoulder. "Gout," said we, briefly, almost surlily. "Dear me," said she; "you are highly flavored! It was only rich people and epicacs in living that had the gout in olden times." "Ah!" we growled, partly in response, and partly with an infernal twinge, "Poor soul!" she continued, with commiseration, like an anodyne, in the tones of her voice; "the best remedy I know for it is an embarkation of Roman wormwood and lobelia for the part infected, though some say a cranberry poultice is best; but I believe the cranberries is for erisipilis, and whether either of 'em is a rostrum for the gout or not, I really don't know. If it was a fraction of the arm, I could jest know what to subscribe." We looked into her eye with a determination to say something severely bitter, because we felt allopathic just then; but the kind and sympathizing look that met our own disarmed severity, and sinking into a seat with our coveted Bacon, we thanked her. It was very evident, all the while, that she, or they, stayed, that Ike was seeing how near he could come to our lame member, and not touch it. He did touch it sometimes, but those didn't count.
"I've always noticed," said Mrs. Partington on New Year's Day, dropping her voice to the key that people adopt when they are disposed to be philosophical or moral; "I've always noticed that every year added to a man's life is apt to make him older, just as a man who goes a journey finds, as he jogs on, that every mile he goes brings him nearer where he is going, and farther from where he started. I am not so young as I was once, and I don't believe I shall ever be, if I live to the age of Samson, which, Heaven knows as well as I do, I don't want to, for I wouldn't be a centurion or an octagon, and survive my factories, and become idiomatic, by any means. But then there is no knowing how a thing will turn out till it takes place; and we shall come to an end some day, though we may never live to see it."
There was a smart tap on the looking-glass that hung upon the wall, followed instantly by another.
"Gracious!" said she; "what's that? I hope the glass isn't fractioned, for it is a sure sign of calamity, and mercy knows they come along full fast enough without helping 'em by breaking looking-glasses."
There was another tap, and she caught sight of a white bean that fell on the floor; and there, reflected in the glass, was the face of Ike, who was blowing beans at the mirror through a crack in the door.
"As for the Chinese question," said Mrs. Partington, reflectively, holding her spoon at "present," while the vapor of her cup of tea curled about her face, which shone through it like the moon through a mist, "it is a great pity that somebody don't answer it, though who under the canister of heaven can do it, with sich letters as they have on their tea-chists, is more than I can tell. It is really too bad, though, that some lingister doesn't try it, and not have this provoking question asked all the time, as if we were ignoramuses, and did not know Toolong from No Strong, and there never was sich a thing as the seventh commandment, which, Heaven knows, suits this case to a T, and I hope the breakers of it may escape, but I don't see how they can. The question must be answered, unless it is like a cannondrum, to be given up, which nobody of any spirit should do."
She brought the spoon down into the cup, and looked out through the windows of her soul into celestial fields, peopled with pig-tails, that were all in her eye, while Ike took a double charge of sugar for his tea, and gave an extra allowance of milk to the kitten.
BY WILLIAM VAUGHN MOODY
Thank God my brain is not inclined to cut Such capers every day! I'm just about Mellow, but then—There goes the tent flap shut. Rain's in the wind. I thought so: every snout Was twitching when the keeper turned me out.
That screaming parrot makes my blood run cold. Gabriel's trump! the big bull elephant Squeals "Rain!" to the parched herd. The monkeys scold, And jabber that it's rain-water they want. (It makes me sick to see a monkey pant.)
I'll foot it home, to try and make believe I'm sober. After this I stick to beer, And drop the circus when the sane folks leave. A man's a fool to look at things too near: They look back and begin to cut up queer.
Beasts do, at any rate; especially Wild devils caged. They have the coolest way Of being something else than what you see: You pass a sleek young zebra nosing hay, A nylghau looking bored and distingue,—
And think you've seen a donkey and a bird. Not on your life! Just glance back, if you dare. The zebra chews, the nylghau hasn't stirred; But something's happened, Heaven knows what or where, To freeze your scalp and pompadour your hair.
I'm not precisely an aeolian lute Hung in the wandering winds of sentiment, But drown me if the ugliest, meanest brute Grunting and fretting in that sultry tent Didn't just floor me with embarrassment!
'Twas like a thunder-clap from out the clear— One minute they were circus beasts, some grand, Some ugly, some amusing, and some queer: Rival attractions to the hobo band, The flying jenny, and the peanut-stand.
Next minute they were old hearth-mates of mine! Lost people, eyeing me with such a stare! Patient, satiric, devilish, divine; A gaze of hopeless envy, squalid care, Hatred, and thwarted love, and dim despair.
Within my blood my ancient kindred spoke— Grotesque and monstrous voices, heard afar Down ocean caves when behemoth awoke, Or through fern forests roared the plesiosaur Locked with the giant-bat in ghastly war.
And suddenly, as in a flash of light, I saw great Nature working out her plan; Through all her shapes, from mastodon to mite, Forever groping, testing, passing on To find at last the shape and soul of Man.
Till in the fullness of accomplished time, Comes brother Forepaugh, upon business bent, Tracks her through frozen and through torrid clime, And shows us, neatly labeled in a tent, The stages of her huge experiment;
Babbling aloud her shy and reticent hours; Dragging to light her blinking, slothful moods; Publishing fretful seasons when her powers Worked wild and sullen in her solitudes, Or when her mordant laughter shook the woods.
Here, round about me, were her vagrant births; Sick dreams she had, fierce projects she essayed; Her qualms, her fiery prides, her craze mirths; The troublings of her spirit as she strayed, Cringed, gloated, mocked, was lordly, was afraid,
On that long road she went to seek mankind; Here were the darkling coverts that she beat To find the Hider she was sent to find; Here the distracted footprints of her feet Whereby her soul's Desire she came to greet.
But why should they, her botch-work, turn about And stare disdain at me, her finished job? Why was the place one vast suspended shout Of laughter? Why did all the daylight throb With soundless guffaw and dumb-stricken sob?
Helpless I stood among those awful cages; The beasts were walking loose, and I was bagged! I, I, last product of the toiling ages, Goal of heroic feet that never lagged— A little man in trousers, slightly jagged.
Deliver me from such another jury! The Judgment-day will be a picnic to't. Their satire was more dreadful than their fury, And worst of all was just a kind of brute Disgust, and giving up, and sinking mute.
Survival of the fittest adaptation, And all their other evolution terms, Seem to omit one small consideration, To wit, that tumblebugs and angleworms Have souls: there's soul in everything that squirms.
And souls are restless, plagued, impatient things, All dream and unaccountable desire; Crawling, but pestered with the thought of wings; Spreading through every inch of earth's old mire, Mystical hanker after something higher.
Wishes are horses, as I understand. I guess a wistful polyp that has strokes Of feeling faint to gallivant on land Will come to be a scandal to his folk; Legs he will sprout, in spite of threats and jokes.
And at the core of every life that crawls Or runs or flies or swims or vegetates— Churning the mammoth's heart-blood, in the galls Of shark and tiger planting gorgeous hates, Lighting the love of eagles for their mates;
Yes, in the dim brain of the jellied fish That is and is not living—moved and stirred From the beginning a mysterious wish, A vision, a command, a fatal Word: The name of Man was uttered, and they heard.
Upward along the aeons of old war They sought him: wing and shank-bone, claw and bill, Were fashioned and rejected; wide and far They roamed the twilight jungles of their will; But still they sought him, and desired him still.
Man they desired, but mind you, Perfect Man, The radiant and the loving, yet to be! I hardly wonder, when they come to scan The upshot of their strenuosity, They gazed with mixed emotions upon me.
Well, my advice to you is, Face the creatures, Or spot them sideways with your weather eye, Just to keep tab on their expansive features; It isn't pleasant when you're stepping high To catch a giraffe smiling on the sly.
If Nature made you graceful, don't get gay Back-to before the hippopotamus; If meek and godly, find some place to play Besides right where three mad hyenas fuss; You may hear language that we won't discuss.
If you're a sweet thing in a flower-bed hat, Or her best fellow with your tie tucked in, Don't squander love's bright springtime girding at An old chimpanzee with an Irish chin: There may be hidden meaning in his grin.
DOWN AROUND THE RIVER
BY JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY
Noon-time and June-time, down around the river! Have to furse with 'Lizey Ann—but lawzy! I fergive her! Drives me off the place, and says 'at all 'at she's a-wishin', Land o' gracious! time'll come I'll git enough o' fishin'! Little Dave, a-choppin' wood, never 'pears to notice; Don't know where she's hid his hat, er keerin' where his coat is,— Specalatin', more'n like, he haint a-goin' to mind me, And guessin' where, say twelve o'clock, a feller'd likely find me.
Noon-time and June-time, down around the river! Clean out o' sight o' home, and skulkin' under kivver Of the sycamores, jack-oaks, and swamp-ash and ellum— Idies all so jumbled up, you kin hardly tell'em!— Tired, you know, but lovin' it, and smilin' jest to think 'at Any sweeter tiredness you'd fairly want to drink it. Tired o' fishin'—tired o' fun—line out slack and slacker— All you want in all the world's a little more tobacker!
Hungry, but a-hidin' it, er jes' a-not a-keerin':— Kingfisher gittin' up and skootin' out o' hearin'; Snipes on the t'other side, where the County Ditch is, Wadin' up and down the aidge like they'd rolled their britches! Old turkle on the root kindo-sorto drappin' Intoo th' worter like he don't know how it happen! Worter, shade and all so mixed, don't know which you'd orter Say, th' worter in the shadder—shadder in the worter!
Somebody hollerin'—'way around the bend in Upper Fork—where yer eye kin jes' ketch the endin' Of the shiney wedge o' wake some muss-rat's a-makin' With that pesky nose o' his! Then a sniff o' bacon, Corn-bread and 'dock-greens—and little Dave a-shinnin' 'Crost the rocks and mussel-shells, a-limpin' and a-grinnin', With yer dinner fer ye, and a blessin' from the giver. Noon-time and June-time down around the river!
A MEDIEVAL DISCOVERER
BY BILL NYE
Galilei, commonly called Galileo, was born at Pisa on the 14th day of February, 1564. He was the man who discovered some of the fundamental principles governing the movements, habits, and personal peculiarities of the earth. He discovered things with marvelous fluency. Born as he was, at a time when the rotary motion of the earth was still in its infancy and astronomy was taught only in a crude way, Galileo started in to make a few discoveries and advance some theories which he loved.
He was the son of a musician and learned to play several instruments himself, but not in such a way as to arouse the jealousy of the great musicians of his day. They came and heard him play a few selections, and then they went home contented with their own music. Galileo played for several years in a band at Pisa, and people who heard him said that his manner of gazing out over the Pisan hills with a far-away look in his eye after playing a selection, while he gently up-ended his alto horn and worked the mud-valve as he poured out about a pint of moist melody that had accumulated in the flues of the instrument, was simply grand.
At the age of twenty Galileo began to discover. His first discoveries were, of course, clumsy and poorly made, but very soon he commenced to turn out neat and durable discoveries that would stand for years.
It was at this time that he noticed the swinging of a lamp in a church, and, observing that the oscillations were of equal duration, he inferred that this principle might be utilized in the exact measurement of time. From this little accident, years after, came the clock, one of the most useful of man's dumb friends. And yet there are people who will read this little incident and still hesitate about going to church.
Galileo also invented the thermometer, the microscope and the proportional compass. He seemed to invent things not for the money to be obtained in that way, but solely for the joy of being first on the ground. He was a man of infinite genius and perseverance. He was also very fair in his treatment of other inventors. Though he did not personally invent the rotary motion of the earth, he heartily indorsed it and said it was a good thing. He also came out in a card in which he said that he believed it to be a good thing, and that he hoped some day to see it applied to the other planets.
He was also the inventor of a telescope that had a magnifying power of thirty times. He presented this to the Venetian senate, and it was used in making appropriations for river and harbor improvements.
By telescopic investigation Galileo discovered the presence of microbes in the moon, but was unable to do anything for it. I have spoken of Mr. Galileo, informally calling him by his first name, all the way through this article, for I feel so thoroughly acquainted with him, though there was such a striking difference in our ages, that I think I am justified in using his given name while talking of him.
Galileo also sat up nights and visited with Venus through a long telescope which he had made himself from an old bamboo fishing-rod.
But astronomy is a very enervating branch of science. Galileo frequently came down to breakfast with red, heavy eyes, eyes that were swollen full of unshed tears. Still he persevered. Day after day he worked and toiled. Year after year he went on with his task till he had worked out in his own mind the satellites of Jupiter and placed a small tin tag on each one, so that he would know it readily when he saw it again. Then he began to look up Saturn's rings and investigate the freckles on the sun. He did not stop at trifles, but went bravely on till everybody came for miles to look at him and get him to write something funny in their autograph albums. It was not an unusual thing for Galileo to get up in the morning, after a wearisome night with a fretful, new-born star, to find his front yard full of albums. Some of them were little red albums with floral decorations on them, while others were the large plush and alligator albums of the affluent. Some were new and had the price-mark still on them, while others were old, foundered albums, with a droop in the back and little flecks of egg and gravy on the title-page. All came with a request for Galileo "to write a little, witty, characteristic sentiment in them."
Galileo was the author of the hydrostatic paradox and other sketches. He was a great reader and a fluent penman. One time he was absent from home, lecturing in Venice for the benefit of the United Aggregation of Mutual Admirers, and did not return for two weeks, so that when he got back he found the front room full of autograph albums. It is said that he then demonstrated his great fluency and readiness as a thinker and writer. He waded through the entire lot in two days with only two men from West Pisa to assist him. Galileo came out of it fresh and youthful, and all of the following night he was closeted with another inventor, a wicker-covered microscope, and a bologna sausage. The investigations were carried on for two weeks, after which Galileo went out to the inebriate asylum and discovered some new styles of reptiles.
Galileo was the author of a little work called "I Discarsi e Dimas-Trazioni Matematiche Intorus a Due Muove Scienze." It was a neat little book, of about the medium height, and sold well on the trains, for the Pisan newsboys on the cars were very affable, as they are now, and when they came and leaned an armful of these books on a passenger's leg and poured into his ear a long tale about the wonderful beauty of the work, and then pulled in the name of the book from the rear of the last car, where it had been hanging on behind, the passenger would most always buy it and enough of the name to wrap it up in.
He also discovered the isochronism of the pendulum. He saw that the pendulum at certain seasons of the year looked yellow under the eyes, and that it drooped and did not enter into its work with the old zest. He began to study the case with the aid of his new bamboo telescope and a wicker-covered microscope. As a result, in ten days he had the pendulum on its feet again.
Galileo was inclined to be liberal in his religious views, more especially in the matter of the Scriptures, claiming that there were passages in the Bible which did not literally mean what the translator said they did. This was where Galileo missed it. So long as he discovered stars and isochronisms and such things as that, he succeeded, but when he began to fool with other people's religious beliefs he got into trouble. He was forced to fly from Pisa, we are told by the historian, and we are assured at the same time that Galileo, who had always been far, far ahead of all competitors in other things, was equally successful as a fleer.
Galileo received but sixty scudi per year as his salary while at Pisa, and a part of that he took in town orders, worth only sixty cents on the scudi.
BY ALAN DALE
There was a ring at the front door-bell. Letitia, wrought-up, nervously clutched my arm. For a moment a sort of paralysis seized me. Then, alertly as a young calf, I bounded toward the door, hope aroused, and expectation keen. It was rather dark in the outside hall, and I could not quite perceive the nature of our visitor. But I soon gladly realized that it was something feminine, and as I held the door open, a thin, small, soiled wisp of a woman glided in and smiled at me.
"Talar ni svensk?" she asked, but I had no idea what she meant. She may have been impertinent, or even rude, or perhaps improper, but she looked as though she might be a domestic, and I led her gently, reverently, to Letitia in the drawing-room. I smiled back at her, in a wild endeavor to be sympathetic. I would have anointed her, or bathed her feet, or plied her with figs and dates, or have done anything that any nationality craves as a welcome. As the front door closed I heaved a sigh of relief. Here was probably the quintessence of five advertisements. Out of the mountain crept a mouse, and quite a little mouse, too!
"Talar ni svensk?" proved to be nothing more outrageous than "Do you speak Swedish?" My astute little wife discovered this intuitively. I left them together, my mental excuse being that women understand each other and that a man is unnecessary, under the circumstances. I had some misgivings on the subject of Letitia and svensk, but the universal language of femininity is not without its uses. I devoutly hoped that Letitia would be able to come to terms, as the mere idea of a cook who couldn't excoriate us in English was, at that moment, delightful. At the end of a quarter of an hour I strolled back to the drawing-room. Letitia was smiling and the hand-maiden sat grim and uninspired.
"I've engaged her, Archie," said Letitia. "She knows nothing, as she has told me in the few words of English that she has picked up, but—you remember what Aunt Julia said about a clean slate."
I gazed at the maiden, and reflected that while the term "slate" might be perfectly correct, the adjective seemed a bit over-enthusiastic. She was decidely soiled, this quintessence of a quintette of advertisements. I said nothing, anxious not to dampen Letitia's elation.
"She has no references," continued my wife, "as she has never been out before. She is just a simple little Stockholm girl. I like her face immensely, Archie—immensely. She is willing to begin at once, which shows that she is eager, and consequently likely to suit us. Wait for me, Archie, while I take her to the kitchen. Kom, Gerda."
Exactly why Letitia couldn't say "Come, Gerda," seemed strange. She probably thought that Kom must be Swedish, and that it sounded well. She certainly invented Kom on the spur of the Scandinavian moment, and I learned afterward that it was correct. My inspired Letitia! Still, in spite of all, my opinion is that "Come, Gerda," would have done just as well.
"Isn't it delightful?" cried Letitia, when she joined me later. "I am really enthusiastic at the idea of a Swedish girl. I adore Scandinavia, Archie. It always makes me think of Ibsen. Perhaps Gerda Lyberg—that's her name—will be as interesting as Hedda Gabler, and Mrs. Alving, and Nora, and all those lovely complex Ibsen creatures."
"They were Norwegians, dear," I said gently, anxious not to shatter illusions; "the Ibsen plays deal with Christiania, not with Stockholm."
"But they are so near," declared Letitia, amiable and seraphic once more. "Somehow or other, I invariably mix up Norway and Sweden and Denmark. I know I shall always look upon Gerda as an Ibsen girl, who has come here to 'live her life,' or 'work out her inheritance.' Perhaps, dear, she has some interesting internal disease, or a maggoty brain. Don't you think, Archie, that the Ibsen inheritances are always most fascinating? A bit morbid, but surely fascinating."
"I prefer a healthy cook, Letitia," I said meditatively, "somebody willing to interest herself in our inheritance, rather than in her own."
"I don't mind what you say now," she pouted, "I am not to be put down by clamor. We really have a cook at last, and I feel more lenient toward you, Archie. Of course I was only joking when I suggested the Ibsen diseases. Gerda Lyberg may have inherited from her ancestors something quite nice and attractive."
"Then you mustn't look upon her as Ibsen, Letitia," I protested. "The Ibsen people never inherit nice things. Their ancestors always bequeath nasty ones. That is where their consistency comes in. They are receptacles for horrors. Personally, if you'll excuse my flippancy, I prefer Norwegian anchovies to Norwegian heroines. It is a mere matter of opinion."
"I'm ashamed of you," retorted Letitia defiantly. "You talk like some of the wretchedly frivolous criticisms, so called, that men like Acton Davies and Alan Dale inflict upon the long-suffering public. They never amuse me. Ibsen may make his heroines the recipients of ugly legacies, but he has never yet cursed them with the odious incubus known as 'a sense of humor.' The people with a sense of humor have something in their brains worse than maggots. We'll drop the subject, Archie. I'm going to learn Swedish. Before Gerda Lyberg has been with us a month I intend to be able to talk fluently. It will be most useful. Next time we go to Europe we'll take in Sweden, and I'll do the piloting. I am going to buy some Swedish books, and study. Won't it be jolly? And just think how melancholy we were this morning, you and I, looking out of that window, and trying to materialize cooks. Wasn't it funny, Archie? What amusing experiences we shall be able to chronicle, later on!"
Letitia babbled on like half a dozen brooks, and thinking up a gentle parody, in the shape of, "cooks may come, and men may go," I decided to leave my household gods for the bread-earning contest down-town. I could not feel quite as sanguine as Letitia, who seemed to have forgotten the dismal results of the advertisement—just one little puny Swedish result. I should have preferred to make a choice. Letitia was as pleased with Gerda Lyberg as though she had been a selection instead of a that-or-nothing.
If somebody had dramatized Gerda Lyberg's initial dinner, it would probably have been considered exceedingly droll. As a serious episode, however, its humor, to my mind, lacked spontaneity. Letitia had asked her to cook us a little Swedish meal, so that we could get some idea of Stockholm life, in which, for some reason or other, we were supposed to be deeply interested. Unfortunately I was extremely hungry, and had carefully avoided luncheon in order to give my appetite a chance. We sat down to a huge bowl of cold, greasy soup, in which enormous lumps of meat swam, as though for their life, awaiting rescue at the prongs of a fork. In addition to this epicurean dish was a teeming plate of water-soaked potatoes, delicately boiled. That was all. Letitia said that it was Swedish, and the most annoying part of the entertainment was that I was alone in my critical disapprobation. Letitia was so engrossed with a little Swedish conversation book that she brought to table that she forgot the mere material question of food—forgot everything but the horrible jargon she was studying, and the soiled, wisp-like maiden, who looked more unlike a clean slate than ever.
"What shall I say to her, Archie?" asked Letitia, turning over the pages of her book, as I tried to rescue a block of meat from the cold fat in which it lurked. "Here is a chapter on dinner. 'I am very hungry,' 'Jag aer myckel hungrig.' Rather pretty, isn't it? Hark at this: 'Kypare gif mig matsedeln och vinlistan.' That means: 'Waiter, give me the bill of fare, and the list of wines.'"
"Don't," I cried; "don't. This woman doesn't know what dining means. Look out a chapter on feeding."
Letitia was perfectly unruffled. She paid no attention to me whatsoever. She was fascinated with the slovenly girl, who stood around and gaped at her Swedish.
"Gerda," said Letitia, with her eyes on the book, "Gif mir apven senap och naegra potaeter." And then, as Miss Lyberg dived for the drowned potatoes, Letitia exclaimed in an ecstasy of joy, "She understands, Archie, she understands. I feel I am going to be a great success. Jag tackar, Gerda. That means 'I thank you,' Jag tackar. See if you can say it, Archie. Just try, dear, to oblige me. Jag tackar. Now, that's a good boy, jag tackar."
"I won't," I declared spitefully. "No jag tackaring for a parody like this, Letitia. You don't seem to realize that I'm hungry. Honestly, I prefer a delicatessen dinner to this."
"'Pray, give me a piece of venison,'" read Letitia, absolutely disregarding my mood. "'Var god och gif mig ett stycke vildt.' It is almost intelligible, isn't it, dear? 'Ni aeter icke': you do not eat."
"I can't," I asserted mournfully, anxious to gain Letitia's sympathy.
It was not forthcoming. Letitia's eyes were fastened on Gerda, and I could not help noting on the woman's face an expression of scorn. I felt certain of it. She appeared to regard my wife as a sort of irresponsible freak, and I was vexed to think that Letitia should make such an exhibition of herself, and countenance the alleged meal that was set before us.
"'I have really dined very well,'" she continued joyously. "Jag har verkligen atit mycket bra.'"
"If you are quite sure that she doesn't understand English, Letitia," I said viciously, "I'll say to you that this is a kind of joke I don't appreciate. I won't keep such a woman in the house. Let us put on our things and go out and have dinner. Better late than never."
Letitia was turning over the pages of her book, quite lost to her surroundings. As I concluded my remarks she looked up and exclaimed, "How very funny, Archie. Just as you said 'Better late than never,' I came across that very phrase in the list of Swedish proverbs. It must be telepathy, dear. 'Better late than never,' 'Battre sent aen aldrig.' What were you saying on the subject, dear? Will you repeat it? And do try it in Swedish. Say 'Battre sent aen aldrig.'"
"Letitia," I shot forth in a fury, "I'm not in the humor for this sort of thing. I think this dinner and this woman are rotten. See if you can find the word rotten in Swedish."
"I am surprised at you," Letitia declared glacially, roused from her book by my heroic though unparliamentary language. "Your expressions are neither English nor Swedish. Please don't use such gutter-words before a servant, to say nothing of your own wife."
"But she doesn't understand," I protested, glancing at Miss Lyberg. I could have sworn that I detected a gleam in the woman's eyes and that the sphinx-like attitude of dull incomprehensibility suggested a strenuous effort. "She doesn't understand anything. She doesn't want to understand."
"In a week from now," said Letitia, "she will understand everything perfectly, for I shall be able to talk with her. Oh, Archie, do be agreeable. Can't you see that I am having great fun? Don't be such a greedy boy. If you could only enter into the spirit of the thing, you wouldn't be so oppressed by the food question. Oh, dear! How important it does seem to be to men. Gerda, hur gammal aer ni?"
The maiden sullenly left the room, and I felt convinced that Letitia had Swedishly asked her to do so. I was wrong. "Hur gammal aer ni," Letitia explained, simply meant, "How old are you?"
"She evidently didn't want to tell me," was my wife's comment, as we went to the drawing-room. "I imagine, dear, that she doesn't quite like the idea of my ferreting out Swedish so persistently. But I intend to persevere. The worst of conversation books is that one acquires a language in such a parroty way. Now, in my book, the only answer to the question 'How old are you?' is, 'I was born on the tenth of August, 1852.' For the life of me, I couldn't vary that, and it would be most embarrassing. It would make me fifty-two. If any one asked me in Swedish how old I was, I should have to be fifty-two!"
"When I think of my five advertisements," I said lugubriously, as I threw myself into an arm-chair, fatigued at my efforts to discover dinner, "when I remember our expectation, and the pleasant anticipations of to-day, I feel very bitter, Letitia. Just to think that from it all nothing has resulted but that beastly mummy, that atrocious ossified thing."
"Archie, Archie!" said my wife warningly; "please be calm. Perhaps I was too engrossed with my studies to note the deficiencies of dinner. But do remember that I pleaded with her for a Swedish meal. The poor thing did what I asked her to do. Our dinner was evidently Swedish. It was not her fault that I asked for it. To-morrow, dear, it shall be different. We had better stick to the American regime. It is more satisfactory to you. At any rate, we have somebody in the house, and if our five advertisements had brought forth five hundred applicants we should only have kept one. So don't torture yourself, Archie. Try and imagine that we had five hundred applicants, and that we selected Gerda Lyberg."
"I can't, Letitia," I said sulkily, and I heaved a heavy sigh.
"Come," she said soothingly, "come and study Swedish with me. It will be most useful for your Lives of Great Men. You can read up the Swedes in the original. I'll entertain you with this book, and you'll forget all about Mrs. Potz—I mean Gerda Lyberg. By-the-by, Archie, she doesn't remind me so much of Hedda Gabler. I don't fancy that she is very subtile."
"You, Letitia," I retorted, "remind me of Mrs. Nickleby. You ramble on so."
Letitia looked offended. She always declared that Dickens "got on her nerves." She was one of the new-fashioned readers who have learned to despise Dickens. Personally, I regretted only his nauseating sense of humor. Letitia placed a cushion behind my head, smoothed my forehead, kissed me, made her peace, and settled down by my side. Lack of nourishment made me drowsy, and Letitia's babblings sounded vague and muffled.
"It is a most inclusive little book," she said, "and if I can succeed in memorizing it all I shall be quite at home with the language. In fact, dear, I think I shall always keep Swedish cooks. Hark at this: 'If the wind be favorable, we shall be at Gothenburg in forty hours.' 'Om vinden aer god, sa aero vi pa pyrtio timmar i Goteborg.' I think it is sweetly pretty. 'You are seasick.' 'Steward, bring me a glass of brandy and water.' 'We are now entering the harbor.' 'We are now anchoring.' 'Your passports, gentlemen.'"
A comfortable lethargy was stealing o'er me. Letitia took a pencil and paper, and made notes as she plied the book. "A chapter on 'seeing a town' is most interesting, Archie. Of course, it must be a Swedish town. 'Do you know the two private galleries of Mr. Smith, the merchant, and Mr. Muller, the chancellor?' 'To-morrow morning I wish to see all the public buildings and statues.' 'Statyerna' is Swedish for statues, Archie. Are you listening, dear? 'We will visit the Church of the Holy Ghost, at two, then we will make an excursion on Lake Maelan and see the fortress of Vaxholm.' It is a charming little book. Don't you think that it is a great improvement on the old Ollendorff system? I don't find nonsensical sentences like 'The hat of my aunt's sister is blue, but the nose of my brother-in-law's sister-in-law is red.'"
I rose and stretched myself. Letitia was still plunged in the irritating guide to Sweden, where I vowed I would never go. Nothing on earth should ever induce me to visit Sweden. If it came to a choice between Hoboken and Stockholm, I mentally determined to select the former. As I paced the room I heard a curious splashing noise in the kitchen. Letitia's studies must have dulled her ears. She was evidently too deeply engrossed.
I strolled nonchalantly into the hall, and proceeded deliberately toward the kitchen. The thick carpet deadened my footsteps. The splashing noise grew louder. The kitchen door was closed. I gently opened it. As I did so a wild scream rent the air. There stood Gerda Lyberg in—in—my pen declines to write it—a simple unsophisticated birthday dress, taking an ingenuous reluctant bath in the "stationary tubs," with the plates, and dishes, and dinner things grouped artistically around her!
The instant she saw me she modestly seized a dish-towel and shouted at the top of her voice. The kitchen was filled with the steam from the hot water. 'Venus arising' looked nebulous, and mystic. I beat a hasty retreat, aghast at the revelation, and almost fell against Letitia, who, dropping her conversation book, came to see what had happened.
"She's bathing!" I gasped, "in the kitchen—among the plates—near the soup—"
"Never!" cried Letitia. Then, melodramatically: "Let me pass. Stand aside, Archie. I'll go and see. Perhaps—perhaps—you had better come with me."
"Letitia," I gurgled, "I'm shocked! She has nothing on but a dish-towel."
Letitia paused irresolutely for a second, and going into the kitchen shut the door. The splashing noise ceased. I heard the sound of voices, or rather of a voice—Letitia's! Evidently she had forgotten Swedish, and such remarks as "If the wind be favorable, we shall be at Gothenburg in forty hours." I listened attentively, and could not even hear her say "We will visit the Church of the Holy Ghost at two." It is strange how the stress of circumstances alters the complexion of a conversation book! All the evening she had studied Swedish, and yet suddenly confronted by a Swedish lady bathing in our kitchen, dish-toweled but unashamed, all she could find to say was "How disgusting!" and "How disgraceful!" in English!
"You see," said Letitia, when she emerged, "she is just a simple peasant girl, and only needs to be told. It is very horrid, of course."
"And unappetizing!" I chimed in.
"Of course—certainly unappetizing. I couldn't think of anything Swedish to say, but I said several things in English. She was dreadfully sorry that you had seen her, and never contemplated such a possibility. After all, Archie, bathing is not a crime."
"And we were hunting for a clean slate," I suggested satirically. "Do you think, Letitia, that she also takes a cold bath in the morning, among the bacon and eggs, and things?"
"That is enough," said Letitia sternly. "The episode need not serve as an excuse for indelicacy."
It was with the advent of Gerda Lyberg that we became absolutely certain, beyond the peradventure of any doubt, that there was such a thing as the servant question. The knowledge had been gradually wafted in upon us, but it was not until the lady from Stockholm had definitively planted herself in our midst that we admitted to ourselves openly, unblushingly, that the problem existed. Gerda blazoned forth the enigma in all its force and defiance.
The remarkable thing about our latest acquisition was the singularly blank state of her gastronomic mind. There was nothing that she knew. Most women, and a great many men, intuitively recognize the physical fact that water, at a certain temperature, boils. Miss Lyberg, apparently seeking to earn her living in the kitchen, had no certain views as to when the boiling point was reached. Rumors seemed vaguely to have reached her that things called eggs dropped into water would, in the course of time—any time, and generally less than a week—become eatable. Letitia bought a little egg-boiler for her—one of those antique arrangements in which the sands of time play to the soft-boiled egg. The maiden promptly boiled it with the eggs, and undoubtedly thought that the hen, in a moment of perturbation, or aberration, had laid it. I say "thought" because it is the only term I can use. It is, perhaps, inappropriate in connection with Gerda.
Potatoes, subjected to the action of hot water, grow soft. She was certain of that. Whether she tested them with the poker, or with her hands or feet, we never knew. I inclined to the last suggestion. The situation was quite marvelous. Here was an alleged worker, in a particular field, asking the wages of skilled labor, and densely ignorant of every detail connected with her task. It seemed unique. Carpenters, plumbers, bricklayers, seamstresses, dressmakers, laundresses—all the sowers and reapers in the little garden of our daily needs, were forced by the inexorable law of competition to possess some inkling of the significance of their undertakings. With the cook it was different. She could step jubilantly into any kitchen without the slightest idea of what she was expected to do there. If she knew that water was wet and that fire was hot, she felt amply primed to demand a salary.
Impelled by her craving for Swedish literature, Letitia struggled with Miss Lyberg. Compared with the Swede, my exquisitely ignorant wife was a culinary queen. She was an epicurean caterer. Letitia's slate-pencil coffee was ambrosia for the gods, sweetest nectar, by the side of the dishwater that cook prepared. I began to feel quite proud of her. She grew to be an adept in the art of boiling water. If we could have lived on that fluid, everything would have moved clockworkily.
"I've discovered one thing," said Letitia on the evening of the third day. "The girl is just a peasant, probably a worker in the fields. That is why she is so ignorant."