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Elbow-Room by Charles Heber Clark (AKA Max Adeler)

Part 2 out of 5

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"Certaidly nod. I woulded do id for ten thousad dollars a lide."

"Well, then, let it alone; and I hope one of those epidemic diseases
will get you and lay you up for life."

As Mr. Barker withdrew, Major Slott threw up the windows, and after
catching his breath, he called down stairs to a reporter,

"Perkins, follow that man and hear what he's got to say, and then
blast him in a column of the awfulest vituperation you know how to

Perkins obeyed orders, and now Barker has a libel suit pending against
_The Patriot_, while the carbolic mat has not yet been introduced to
this market.

* * * * *

Mr. Barker was not a more agreeable visitor than the book-canvasser
who, upon the same day, circulated about the village. He came into
my office with a portfolio under his arm. Placing it upon the table,
removing a ruined hat, and wiping his nose upon a ragged handkerchief
that had been so long out of wash that it was positively gloomy, he

"Mister, I'm canvassing for the National Portrait Gallery; splendid
work; comes in numbers, fifty cents apiece. Contains pictures of all
the great American heroes from the earliest times to the present day.
Everybody's subscribing for it, and I want to see if I can't take your

"Now, just cast your eyes over that," he said, opening his book and
pointing to an engraving. "That's--lemme see--yes, that's Columbus.
Perhaps you've heard sumfin about him? The publisher was telling me
to-day, before I started out, that he discovered--No; was it Columbus
that dis--Oh yes! Columbus, he discovered America. Was the first man
here. He came over in a ship, the publisher said, and it took fire,
and he stayed on deck because his father told him to, if I remember
right; and when the old thing busted to pieces, he was killed.
Handsome picture, ain't it? Taken from a photograph; all of 'em are;
done specially for this work. His clothes are kinder odd, but they say
that's the way they dressed in those days.

"Look here at this one. Now, isn't that splendid? William Penn; one
of the early settlers. I was reading the other day about him; when
he first arrived, he got a lot of Indians up a tree, and when they'd
shook some apples down, he set one on top of his son's head and shot
an arrow plumb through it, and never fazed him. They say it struck
them Indians cold, he was such a terrific shooter. Fine countenance,
hasn't he? Face shaved clean; he didn't wear a mustache, I believe,
but he seems to've let himself out on hair. Now, my view is that every
man ought to have a picture of that patriarch, so's to see how the
first settlers looked and what kind of weskits they used to wear. See
his legs, too! Trousers a little short, maybe, as if he was going to
wade in a creek; but he's all there. Got some kind of a paper in his
hand, I see. Subscription list, I reckon.

"Now, how does _that_ strike you? There's something nice. That,
I think, is--is--that is--a--a--yes, to be sure, Washington. You
recollect him, of course. Some people call him 'Father of his
Country,' George Washington. Had no middle name, I believe. He lived
about two hundred years ago, and he was a fighter. I heard the
publisher telling a man about him crossing the Delaware River up yer
at Trenton, and seems to me, if I recollect right, I've read about it
myself. He was courting some girl on the Jersey side, and he used
to swim over at nights to see her, when the old man was asleep. The
girl's family were down on him, I reckon. He looks like the man to do
that, now, don't he? He's got it in his eye. If it'd been me, I'd a
gone over on the bridge, but he probably wanted to show off before
her; some men are so reckless. Now, if you'll go in on this thing,
I'll get the publisher to write out some more stories about him, and
bring 'em around to you, so's you can study up on him. I know he
did ever so many other things, but I've forgot 'em; my memory's so
thundering poor.

"Less see; who have we next? Ah, Franklin! Benjamin Franklin. He was
one of the old original pioneers, I think. I disremember exactly what
he is celebrated for, but I believe it was flying a--oh, yes! flying a
kite, that's it. The publisher mentioned it. He was out one day flying
a kite, you know, like boys do nowadays, and while she was flickering
up in the sky, and he was giving her more string, an apple fell off a
tree and hit him on the head, and then he discovered the attraction of
gravitation, I think they call it. Smart, wasn't it? Now, if you or
me'd a been hit, it'd just a made us mad, like as not, and set us
a-cussing. But men are so different. One man's meat's another man's
pison. See what a double chin he's got. No beard on him, either,
though a goatee would have been becoming to such a round face. He
hasn't got on a sword, and I reckon he was no soldier; fit some when
he was a boy, maybe, or went out with the home-guard, but not a
regular warrior. I ain't one myself, and I think all the better of him
for it.

"Ah, here we are! Look at that! Smith and Pocahontas! John Smith.
Isn't that just gorgeous? See how she kneels over him and sticks out
her hands while he lays on the ground and that big fellow with a club
tries to hammer him up. Talk about woman's love! There it is. Modocs,
I believe. Anyway, some Indians out West there somewheres; and the
publisher tells me that Shacknasty, or whatever his name is, there,
was going to bang old Smith over the head with that log of wood, and
this girl here, she was sweet on Smith, it appears, and she broke
loose and jumped forward, and says to the man with the stick, 'Why
don't you let John alone? Me and him are going to marry; and if you
kill him, I'll never speak to you again as long as I live,' or words
like them; and so the man, he give it up, and both of them hunted up a
preacher and were married, and lived happily ever afterward. Beautiful
story, ain't it? A good wife she made him, too, I bet, if she _was_ a
little copper-colored. And don't she look just lovely in that picture?
But Smith appears kinder sick. Evidently thinks his goose is cooked;
and I don't wonder, with that Modoc swooping down on him with such a
discouraging club.

"And now we come to--to--ah--to Putnam--General Putnam. He fought in
the war, too; and one day a lot of 'em caught him when he was off his
guard, and they tied him flat on his back on a horse, and then licked
the horse like the very mischief. And what does that horse do but go
pitching down about four hundred stone steps in front of the house,
with General Putnam laying there nearly skeered to death. Leastways,
the publisher said somehow that way, and I oncet read about it myself.
But he came out safe, and I reckon sold the horse and made a pretty
good thing of it. What surprises me is he didn't break his neck;
but maybe it was a mule, and they're pretty sure-footed, you know.
Surprising what some of these men have gone through, ain't it?

"Turn over a couple of leaves. That's General Jackson. My father shook
hands with him once. He was a fighter, I know. He fit down in New
Orleans. Broke up the rebel legislature, and then, when the Ku-Kluxes
got after him, he fought 'em behind cotton breastworks and licked 'em
till they couldn't stand. They say he was terrific when he got real
mad. Hit straight from the shoulder, and fetched his man every time.
Andrew his first name was; and look how his hair stands up! And then
here's John Adams and Daniel Boone and two or three pirates, and a
whole lot more pictures, so you see it's cheap as dirt. Lemme have
your name, won't you?"

"I believe not to-day."

"What! won't go in on William Penn and Washington and Smith, and the
other heroes?"


"Well, well! Hang me if I'd a-wasted so much information on you if I'd
a knowed you wouldn't subscribe. If every man was like you, it'd break
up the business."

Then he wiped his nose and left. I hope he is doing better with the
work than he did with me.



Soon after he moved out from the city to live in the village Mr.
Butterwick determined to secure the services of a good gardener who
could be depended upon to produce from the acre surrounding the house
the largest possible crop of fruit, vegetables and flowers. A man
named Brown was recommended as an expert, and Mr. Butterwick engaged
him. As Mr. Butterwick has no acquaintance with the horticultural art,
he instructed Brown to use his own judgment in fixing up the place,
and Brown said he would.

On the morning of the first day, while Mr. Butterwick was sitting on
the front porch, he saw Brown going out of the gate with a gun
upon his shoulder, and Mr. Butterwick conceived the idea that the
horticultural expert intended to begin his career in his new place by
taking a holiday.

In about an hour, however, Brown came sauntering up the street
dragging a deceased dog by the tail. Mr. Butterwick asked him if he
had accidentally shot his dog while aiming at a rabbit. But Brown
simply smiled significantly and passed silently in through the gate.

Then he buried the dog beneath the grape-arbor; and when the funeral
was over, Brown loaded up his gun, rubbed his muddy boots upon the
grass, brought his weapon to "right shoulder shift" and sallied out

Mr. Butterwick asked him if he was going down to the woods after
squirrels; but he put his thumb knowingly to his nose, winked at Mr.
Butterwick and went mutely down the road. After a while he loomed up
again upon the horizon, and this time Mr. Butterwick noticed that he
was hauling after him a setter pup and a yellow dog, both dead, and
yoked together with one of Brown's suspenders.

Mr. Butterwick failed to comprehend the situation exactly, but he
ventured the remark that Brown must be a very poor shot to hit his own
dogs every time instead of the game. Brown, however, was not open to
criticism. He walked calmly down the yard, and after entombing the
dogs by the grape-arbor, he put four fingers of buckshot in his gun,
rearranged his suspenders, shouldered arms and struck out for the
front gate with a countenance as impassive as that of a graven image.

Mr. Butterwick inquired if there was a target-shooting match over at
the "King of Prussia;" but Brown didn't appear to hear him, and passed
serenely down the street. At half-past eleven Brown came within hail
again, and presently he marched up the yard with three departed cats
and a blue poodle.


Mr. Butterwick thought it was extraordinary, and he asked Brown if he
was engaged in gunning for domestic animals in order to settle a bet.
But Brown only coughed a couple of times, closed one eye sagaciously
and began to dig a fresh grave under the arbor. When the last sad
rites were over, he charged his gun as usual, rubbed his nose
thoughtfully with his sleeve, took a drink at the pump and wandered

He had been gone about fifteen minutes, when Mr. Butterwick heard two
shots in quick succession. A minute later he saw Brown coming up the
road with a considerable amount of velocity, pursued by Mr. Potts and
a three-legged dog. Brown kept ahead; and when he had shot through the
gate, he dashed into the house and bolted the door. Then Potts arrived
with his dog, which stood by, looking as if it were very anxious to
lunch upon somebody, while Potts explained to Butterwick that Brown
had shot a leg off of his dog, and that he, Potts, intended to have
satisfaction for the injury, if he had to go to law about it.

When Mr. Butterwick had pacified Potts and sent him away, Mr.
Butterwick sought an interview with Brown:

"Brown, you have been behaving in a most preposterous manner ever
since you came here. I employed you as a gardener, not as a gunner.
You have nearly killed a valuable animal belonging to Mr. Potts; and
I'll thank you to tell me what you mean, and right off, too."

Brown winked again, cleared his throat, pulled up his shirt-collar and

"I was goin' to quit soon as I ketched Potts's dog. He'd a bin
splendid to bury out yer with the others. Lemme tell you how it is:
The best thing to make grape-vines grow is dogs; bury 'em right down
among the roots. Some people prefer grandmothers and their other
relations. But gimme dogs and cats. Soon as I seen them vines of yourn
I said to myself, Them vines wants a few dogs, and I concluded to
put in the first day rakin' in all I could find. I'm goin' out again
to-morrow, down the other road."

But he didn't. Mr. Butterwick discharged him that night. He was too
enthusiastic for a gardener, and Mr. Butterwick thought that life
might open out to him a brighter and more beautiful vista in some
other capacity.

Subsequently, Mr. Butterwick concluded to attend to his garden
himself, and early in the spring he received from the Congressman of
our district a choice lot of assorted seeds brought from California
by the Agricultural Department. There were more than he wanted, so he
gave a quantity of sugar-beet and onion seeds to Mr. Potts, and
some turnip and radish seeds to Colonel Coffin; then he planted the
remainder, consisting of turnip, cabbage, celery and beet seeds, in
his own garden.

When the plants began to come up, he thought they looked kind of
queer, but he waited until they grew larger, and then, as he felt
certain something was wrong, he sent for a professional gardener to
make an examination.

"Mr. Hoops," he said, "cast your eye over those turnips and tell me
what you think is the matter with them."

"Turnip!" exclaimed Hoops. "Turnip! Why, bless your soul, man! that's
not turnip. That's nothin' but pokeberry. You've got enough pokeberry
in that bed to last a million years."

"Well, Mr. Hoops, come over here to this bed. Now, how does that
celery strike you? The munificent Federal government is spreading that
celery all over this land of the free. Great, isn't it?"

"Well, well!" said Hoops; "and they shoved that off on you for celery,
did they? Too bad! It's nothin' on earth but pokeberry. This is the
California kind--the deadliest pokeberry that was ever invented."

"Are you sure you're not mistaken, Mr. Hoops? But you haven't seen my
beets there in the adjoining bed. The seeds of those beets were sent
from Honolulu by our consul there. He reports that the variety attains
gigantic size."

"Really, now," said Hoops, "I don't want to hurt your feelings, but
to be fair and square with you, as between man and man, those are not
beets, you know. They are the Mexican pokeberry. I pledge you my word
it's the awfulest variety of that plant that grows. It'll stay in this
yer garden for ever. You'll never get rid of it."

"This seems a little hard, Mr. Hoops. But I'd like you to inspect my
cabbages. They're all right, I know. The commissioner of agriculture
got the seed from Borneo. They are the curly variety, I think. You
boil them with pork, and they cut down beautifully for slaw. Look at
these plants, will you? Ain't they splendid?"

"Mr. Butterwick," said Hoops, "I've got some bad news to break to you,
but I hope you'll stand it like a man. These afflictions come to all
of us in this life, sir. They are meant for our good. But really, sir,
those are not Borneo cabbages. Cabbages! Why, thunder and lightnin'!
They are merely a mixture of California and Mexican pokeberry with
the ordinary kind, and a little Osage orange sprinkled through. It's
awful, sir! Why, you've got about two acres of pokeberry and not a
blessed bit of cabbage or turnips among them."

"Mr. Hoops, this is terrible news; and do you know I gave a lot of
those seeds to Potts and Coffin?"

"I know you did; and I seen Colonel Coffin this mornin' with a
shot-gun goin' round askin' people if they knew where he could find

"Find me! What do you mean?"

"Well, you see, sir, that there onion seed that you gave him was
really the seed of the silver maple tree, and it's growed up so thick
all over his garden that a cat can't crawl through it. There's about
forty million shoots and suckers in that garden, and they'll have to
be cut out with a handsaw. It'll take about a year to do it."

"You appall me, Hoops!"

"And that's not the worst of it. The roots are so matted and
interlocked jes beneath the surface that you can't make any impression
on 'em with a pickaxe. That garden of Coffin's is ruined--entirely
ruined, sir. You might blast those roots with gunpowder and it would
make no difference. And the suckers will grow faster than they're cut
down. He'll have to sell the property, sir."

"And the commissioner of agriculture said that was onion seed. Why
didn't Coffin hunt _him_ with a shot-gun?"

"Yes, sir; and Mr. Potts's got pokeberry and silver maple growin' all
over his place, too, and he's as mad as--Well, you just ought to hear
him snortin' around town. He'll kill somebody, I'm afeard."

Mr. Butterwick settled the difficulty with Coffin and Potts somehow,
but he made up his mind to vote for another man for Congress at the
next election.

Mr. Butterwick was the first man to introduce that ingenious and
useful implement the lawn-mower into our section of the country. As
his mower was the only one in the village, it was at once in great
demand. Everybody wanted to borrow it for a few days, and Butterwick
lent it with such generosity that it was out most of the time, and a
good many people had to wait for it. At last there was quite a rivalry
who should have it next, and the folks used to put in their claims
with the owner whenever they had an opportunity.

One day Mr. Smith's wife died, and Mr. Butterwick attended the
funeral. Smith was nearly wild with grief. As the remains were put
into their last resting-place he cried as if his heart would break,
and his friends began to get uneasy about his nervous system.
Presently he took his handkerchief from his eyes for a moment to rub
his nose, and as he did so he saw Butterwick looking at him. A thought
seemed to strike Smith. He dashed away a couple of tears; and stepping
over a heap of loose earth as they began to shovel it in, he grasped
Butterwick by the hand. Butterwick gave him a sympathetic squeeze, and

"Sorry for you, Smith; I am indeed! A noble woman and a good wife. But
bear up under it, bear up! Our loss, you know, is her gain."

"Ah! she was indeed a woman in a thousand," responded Smith; "and
now to think that she has gone--gone, left us for ever! But these
afflictions must not make us forget the duty we owe to the living. She
has passed away from toil and suffering, but we still have much to do;
and, Butterwick, I want to borrow your lawn-mower. If you can fix it
for Tuesday, I think maybe the worst of my anguish will be over."

"You may have it, of course."

"Thank you; oh, thank you! Our friends are a great comfort to us
in the hour of bereavement;" and then Smith gave his arm to his
mother-in-law, put his handkerchief to his eyes and joined the
procession of mourners.

Upon the following Sunday, Rev. Dr. Dox preached a splendid sermon
over in the Free church, and just as he reached "secondly" he paused,
looked around upon the congregation for a minute, and then he beckoned
Deacon Moody to come up to the pulpit. He whispered something in
Moody's ear, and Moody seemed surprised. The congregation was wild
with curiosity to know what was the matter. Then the deacon, blushing
scarlet and seeming annoyed, walked down the aisle and whispered in
Butterwick's ear. Butterwick nodded, and whispered to his wife, who
was perishing to know what it was. She leaned over and communicated it
to Mrs. Bunnel, in the pew in front; and when the Bunnels all had it,
they sent it on to the people next to them, and so before the doctor
reached "thirdly" the whole congregation knew that he wanted to borrow
Butterwick's lawn-mower on Monday morning early.

A day or two later, while Butterwick was crossing the creek upon a
train of cars, the train ran off the track and rolled his car into
the water. Butterwick got out, however, into the stream, and as he
emerged, spluttering and blowing, he struck against a stranger who
was treading water. The stranger apologized, and said that Butterwick
might not recognize him in his dilapidated condition as Martin
Thompson, but while they were together, he would like to put in a word
for that lawn-mower when the parson was done with it.

[Illustration: TREADING WATER]

At last Butterwick grew tired of lending, and refused all applicants.
Then the people began to steal it, and six respectable citizens only
escaped going to jail because Butterwick had consideration for their
families. Finally he chained it to the pump, and then they sawed off
the pump and operated the mower with the log as a roller. Butterwick
at last put it on top of his house, and that night fourteen ladders
were seen against the wall. They did say that Ramsey, the lawyer, made
one effort with a hot-air balloon, and failed only because he fell out
and hurt his leg; but this was never traced to any reliable source.

The following week a man arrived and opened an agency for the sale
of the mowers in the village, and gradually the excitement abated.
Butterwick, however, has cut his grass with a sickle ever since.



The Methodist church in the village is doing now, as it has always
done, a good and noble work for Christianity and the cause of public
morals; but it has not escaped the trials which are permitted
sometimes to afflict the Church militant. Years ago, when the
congregation was first organized, it erected a small but very
pretty frame meeting-house. In the course of time the people became
dissatisfied with the location of the house of worship; and as they
had a good offer for the site, they sold it and bought a better one in
another quarter. Then they put rollers under the building, and as soon
as it was off the ground the purchaser of the lot began to build a
dwelling-house on the site. It was slow work pushing the church along
the street, and before they got far somebody discovered that the title
of the new site was not good, and so the bargain was annulled. The
next day the brethren went plunging around town trying to buy another
site, but nobody had one to sell; and on the following morning the
supervisors got an order from the court requiring that meeting-house
to be removed from the public street within twenty-four hours.

The brethren were nearly wild about it, and they begged old Brindley
to let them run the concern in on his vacant lot temporarily until
they could look around. But Brindley belonged to another denomination,
and he said he felt that it would be wrong for him to do anything
to help a church that believed false doctrines. Then they ran the
meeting-house out on the turnpike beyond the town, whereupon the
turnpike company notified them that its charges would be eight dollars
a day for toll. So they hauled it back again; and while going down the
hill it broke loose, plunged through the fence of Dr. Mackey's garden
and brought up on top of his asparagus-bed. He is an Episcopalian,
and he sued the meeting for damages; and the sheriff levied upon the
meetinghouse. The brethren paid the bill and dragged the building out

They wanted to put it in the court-house yard, but Judge Twiddler, who
is a Presbyterian, said that after examining the statutes carefully he
could find no law allowing a Methodist meeting-house to be located
in that place. In despair, the brethren ran the building down to the
river-shore and fitted it on a huge raft of logs, concluding to tie it
to the wharf until they could buy a lot. But as the owner of the
wharf handed them on the third day a bill of twenty-five dollars for
wharfage, they took the building out and anchored it in the stream.
That night a tug-boat, coming up the river in the dark, ran halfway
through the Sunday-school room, and a Dutch brig, coming into
collision with it, was drawn out with the pulpit and three of the
front pews dangling from the bowsprit. The owners of both vessels sued
for damages, and the United States authorities talked of confiscating
the meeting-house as an obstruction to navigation. But a few days
afterward the ice-gorge sent a flood down the river and broke the
building loose from its anchor. It was subsequently washed ashore on
Keyser's farm; and he said he was willing to let it stay there at four
dollars a day rent until he was ready to plough for corn. As the cost
of removing it would have been very great, the trustees ultimately
sold it to Keyser for a barn, and then, securing a good lot, they
built a handsome edifice of stone.

On the first Sunday that the congregation worshiped in the new church
Mr. Potts attended; and in accordance with his custom, he placed his
silk high hat just outside of the pew in the aisle. In a few moments
Mrs. Jones entered, and as she proceeded up the aisle her abounding
skirts caught Mr. Potts' hat and rolled it nearly to the pulpit. Mr.
Potts pursued his hat with feelings of indignation; and when Mrs.
Jones took her seat, he walked back, brushing the hat with his sleeve.
A few moments later Mrs. Hopkins came into church; and as Mr. Potts
had again placed his hat in the aisle, Mrs. Hopkins' skirts struck it
and swept it along about twenty feet, and left it lying on the carpet
in a demoralized condition. Mr. Potts was singing a hymn at the time,
and he didn't miss it. But a moment later, when he looked over the end
of the pew to see if it was safe, he was furious to perceive that it
was gone. He skirmished up the aisle after it again, red in the face,
and uttering sentences which were very much out of place in the
sanctuary. However, he put the hat down again and determined to keep
his eye on it, but just as he turned his head away for a moment Mrs.
Smiley came in, and Potts looked around only in time to watch the hat
being gathered in under Mrs. Smiley's skirts and carried away by them.
He started in pursuit, and just as he did so the hat must have rolled
against Mrs. Smiley's ankles, for she gave a jump and screamed right
out in church. When her husband asked her what was the matter, she
said there must be a dog under her dress, and she gave her skirts
a twist. Out rolled Mr. Potts' hat, and Mr. Smiley, being very
near-sighted, thought it was a dog, and immediately kicked it so
savagely that it flew up into the gallery and lodged on top of the
organ. Mr. Potts, perfectly frantic with rage, forgot where he was;
and holding his clinched fist under Smiley's nose, he shrieked, "I've
half a mind to brain you, you scoundrel!" Then he flung down his
hymn-book and rushed from the church. He went home bareheaded, and the
sexton brought his humiliating hat around after dinner. After that Mr.
Potts expressed a purpose to go habitually to Quaker meeting, where he
could say his prayers with his hat on his head, and where the skirts
of female worshippers are smaller.

* * * * *

Upon a subsequent occasion Mrs. Whistler had even a greater occasion
for dissatisfaction with the sanctuary.

The facts in Mrs. Whistler's case were these: Mrs. Whistler has
singular absence of mind, and on the last Sunday she attended church
Dr. Dox began to read from the Scriptures the account of the Deluge.
Mrs. Whistler was deeply attentive; and when the doctor came to the
story of how it rained for so many days and nights, she was so much
absorbed in the narrative and so strongly impressed with it that she
involuntarily put up her umbrella and held it over her head as she sat
in the pew. It appears that Mrs. Moody, who sits in the next pew in
front, frequently brings her lap-dog to church with her; and when
Mrs. Whistler raised her umbrella suddenly, the action affected the
sensibilities of Mrs. Moody's dog in such a manner that he began to
bark furiously.

Of course the sexton came in for the purpose of removing the animal,
but it dodged into a vacant pew upon the other side of the aisle and
defied him, barking vociferously all the time. Then the sexton became
warm and indignant, and he flung a cane at the dog, whereupon the dog
flew out and bit his leg. The excitement in the church by this time,
of course, was simply dreadful. Not only was the story of the Deluge
interrupted, but the unregenerate Sunday-school scholars in the
gallery actually hissed the dog at the sexton, and seemed to enjoy the
contest exceedingly.

Then Elder McGinn came after the dog with his cane, and as he pursued
the animal it dashed toward the pulpit and ran up the steps in such a
fierce manner that the doctor quickly mounted a chair and remarked,
with anger flashing through his spectacles, that if this disgraceful
scene did not soon come to an end he should dismiss the congregation.
Then the elder crept softly up the stairs, and after a short struggle
he succeeded in grasping the dog by one of its hind legs. Then
he walked down the aisle with it, the dog meantime yelling with
supernatural energy and the Sunday-school boys making facetious

Mrs. Whistler turned around, with other members of the congregation,
to watch the retreating elder, and as she did so she permitted her
unconscious umbrella to droop so that the end of one of the ribs
caught Mrs. Moody's bonnet. A moment later, when she was straightening
up the umbrella, the bonnet was wrenched off, and hung dangling from
the umbrella. Mrs. Moody had become exceedingly warm, at any rate,
over the onslaught made upon her dog, but when Mrs. Whistler removed
her bonnet, she fairly boiled over; and turning around, white with
rage, she screamed,

"What'd you grab that bonnet for, you wretch! Haven't you made enough
fuss in this church to-day, skeering a poor innocent dog, without
snatching off such bonnets as the like of you can't afford to wear, no
matter how mean you live at home, you red-headed lunatic, you! You
let my bonnet alone, or I'll hit you with this parasol, if it is in
meeting, now mind me!"

Then Mrs. Whistler, for the first time, seemed to realize that her
umbrella made her conspicuous; so she furled it and concluded to
escape from an embarrassing position by going home. As she stepped
into the aisle her enemy gave her a parting salute:

"Sneaking off before the collection, too! You'd better spend less for
breastpins and give more to the poor heathen if you don't want to
ketch it hereafter!"

Then she began to fan herself furiously, and as Mrs. Whistler emerged
from the front door and things became calmer the doctor resumed the
story of the Flood. But Mrs. Whistler has given up her pew and gone
over to the Presbyterians, and there are rumors that Mrs. Moody is
going to secede also because Elder McGinn insists that she shall leave
her dog at home.

* * * * *

The Dorcas and missionary societies of the church are particularly
active, but they were somewhat discouraged a year or two ago by
certain unforeseen occurrences. The ladies of the Dorcas Society made
up a large quantity of shirts, trousers and socks, and boxed them up
and sent them to a missionary station on the west coast of Africa.
A man named Ridley went out with the boxes and stayed in Africa for
several months. When he returned, the Dorcas Society, of course, was
anxious to hear how its donation was received, and Ridley one evening
met the members and told them about it in a little speech. He said,

"Well, you know, we got the clothes out there all right, and after
a while we distributed them among some of the natives in the
neighborhood. We thought maybe it would attract them to the mission,
but it didn't; and after some time had elapsed and not a native came
to church with the clothes on, I went out on an exploring expedition
to find out about it. It seems that on the first day after the goods
were distributed one of the chiefs attempted to dress himself in a
shirt. He didn't exactly understand it, and he pushed his legs through
the arms and gathered the tail up around his waist. He couldn't make
it stay up, however, and they say he went around inquiring in his
native tongue what kind of an idiot it was that constructed a garment
that wouldn't hang on, and swearing some of the most awful heathen
oaths. At last he let it drag, and that night he got his legs tangled
in it somehow and fell over a precipice and was killed.

"Another chief who got one on properly went paddling around in the
dark, and the people, imagining that he was a ghost, sacrificed four
babies to keep off the evil spirit.


"And then, you know, those trousers you sent out? Well, they fitted
one pair on an idol, and then they stuffed most of the rest with
leaves and set them up as kind of new-fangled idols and began to
worship them. They say that the services were very impressive. Some of
the women split a few pairs in half, and after sewing up the legs used
them to carry yams in; and I saw one chief with a corduroy leg on his
head as a kind of helmet.

"I think, though, the socks were most popular. All the fighting-men
went for them the first thing. They filled them with sand and used
them as boomerangs and war-clubs. I learned that they were so much
pleased with the efficiency of those socks that they made a raid on a
neighboring tribe on purpose to try them; and they say they knocked
about eighty women and children on the head before they came home.
They asked me if I wouldn't speak to you and get you to send out a few
barrels more, and to make them a little stronger, so's they'd last
longer; and I said I would.

"This society's doing a power of good to those heathen, and I've no
doubt if you keep right along with the work you will inaugurate a
general war all over the continent of Africa and give everybody an
idol of his own. All they want is enough socks and trousers. I'll take
them when I go out again."

Then the Dorcas passed a resolution declaring that it would, perhaps,
be better to let the heathen go naked and give the clothes to the poor
at home. Maybe that is the better way.



For several months previous to last summer Judge Twiddler's family
obtained milk from Mr. Biles, the most prominent milk-dealer in the
village. The prevailing impression among the Twiddlers was that Mr.
Biles supplied an exceedingly thin and watery fluid; and one day when
the judge stepped over to pay his quarterly bill he determined to make
complaint. He found Mr. Biles in the yard mending the valve of his
pump; and when the judge made a jocular remark to the effect that the
dairy must be in a bad way when the pump was out of order, Mr. Biles,
rising with his hammer in his hand, said,

"Oh, I ain't going to deny that we water the milk. I don't mind the
joking about it. But all I say is that when people say we do it from
mercenary motives they slander the profession. No, sir; when I put
water in the milk, I do it out of kindness for the people who drink
it. I do it because I'm philanthropic--because I'm sensitive and can't
bear to see folks suffer. Now, s'pos'n a cow is bilious or something,
and it makes her milk unwholesome. I give it a dash or two of water,
and up it comes to the usual level. Water's the only thing that'll do
it. Or s'pos'n that cow eats a pison vine in the woods; am I going to
let my innocent customers be killed by it for the sake of saving a
little labor at the pump? No, sir; I slush in a few quarts of water,
neutralize the pison, and there she is as right as a trivet.

"But you take the best milk that ever was, and it ain't fit for the
human stomach as it comes from the cow. It has too much caseine in it.
Prof. Huxley says that millions of poor ignorant men and women are
murdered every year by loading down weak stomachs with caseine. It
sucks up the gastric juice, he says, and gets daubed all around over
the membranes until the pores are choked, and then the first thing you
know the man suddenly curls all up and dies. He says that out yer in
Asia, where the milkmen are not as conscientious as we are, there are
whole cemeteries chock full of people that have died of caseine, and
that before long all that country will be one vast burying-ground if
they don't ameliorate the milk. When I think of the responsibility
resting on me, is it singular that I look at this old pump and wonder
that people don't come and silver plate it and put my statue on it? I
tell you, sir, that that humble pump with the cast-iron handle is the
only thing that stands betwixt you and sudden death.

"And besides that, you know how kinder flat raw milk tastes--kinder
insipid and mean. Now, Prof. Huxley, he says that there is only one
thing that will vivify milk and make it luxurious to the palate, and
that is water. Give it a few jerks under the pump, and out it comes
sparkling and delicious, like nectar. I dunno how it is, but Prof.
Huxley says that it undergoes some kinder chemical change that nothing
else'll bring about but a flavoring of fine old pump-water. You know
the doctors all water the milk for babies. They know mighty well if
they didn't those young ones'd shrink all up and sorter fade away.
Nature is the best judge. What makes cows drink so much water?
Instinct, sir--instinct. Something whispers to 'em that if they don't
sluice in a little water that caseine'd make 'em giddy and eat 'em up.
Now, what's the odds whether I put in the water or the cow does? She's
only a poor brute beast, and might often drink too little; but when I
go at it, I bring the mighty human intellect to bear on the subject;
I am guided by reason, and I can water that milk so's it'll have the
greatest possible effect.

"Now, there's chalk. I know some people have an idea that it's wrong
to fix up your milk with chalk. But that's only mere blind bigotry.
What is chalk? A substance provided by beneficent nature for healing
the ills of the human body. A cow don't eat chalk because it's not
needed by her. Poor uneducated animal! she can't grasp these higher
problems, and she goes on nibbling sour-grass and other things, and
filling her milk with acid, which destroys human membranes and induces
colic. Then science comes to the rescue. Professor Huxley tells us
that chalk cures acidity. Consequently, I get some chalk, stir it in
my cans and save the membranes of my customers without charging them a
cent for it--actually give it away; and yet they talk about us milkmen
'sif we were buccaneers and enemies of the race.

"But I don't care. My conscience is clear. I know mighty well that I
have a high and holy mission to perform, and I'm going to perform it
if they burn me at the stake. What do I care how much this pump costs
me if it spreads blessings through the community? What difference does
it make to a man of honor like me if chalk is six cents a pound so
long as I know that without it there wouldn't be a membrane in this
community? Now, look at the thing in the right light, and you'll
believe me that before another century rolls around a grateful
universe will worship the memory of the first milkman who ever had a
pump and who doctored his milk with chalk. It will, unless justice is
never to have her own."

Then Mr. Biles rigged the sucker in the pump, toned up a few cans of
milk, corrected the acidity, and went into the house to receipt the
judge's bill.

Mr. Biles' theory interested the judge, but the argument did not
convince him. And so the judge resolved to buy a cow and obtain pure
milk, without regard for the alleged views of Professor Huxley.
Accordingly, he purchased a cow of a man named Smith, who lives over
at the Rising Sun. She was warranted to be fresh and a first-rate
milker. When Judge Twiddler got her home, he asked his hired man,
Mooney, if he knew how to milk a cow, and Mooney said of course he
did. The animal, therefore, was consigned to Mooney's care. On the
next day, however, Mooney came into the house to see the judge, and he

"Judge, that man cheated you in that cow. Why, she's the awfullest old
beast that ever stood on four legs Dry as punk; hasn't got a drop of
milk in her. That's a positive fact. I've been trying to milk her for
three or four hours, and can't get a drop. Might as well attempt to
milk a clothes-horse. Regular fraud!"

"This is very extraordinary," exclaimed the judge.

"Yes, sir; and she's wicked. I never saw such a disposition in a cow.
Why, while I was working with her she kicked like a flint-lock musket;
butted and rared around. I'd rather fool with a tiger than with a cow
like that."

So the judge drove over to the Rising Sun to see Smith about it; and
when he complained that Smith had sold him a worthless and vicious
beast, and a dry cow at that, Smith said there must be some mistake
about it. He agreed to go back with the judge and investigate the
matter. When they reached the judge's stable, Mooney was not about,
but Smith descended from the wagon, approached the cow, and, to
the astonishment of the judge, milked her without the slightest
difficulty, the cow meantime remaining perfectly quiet, and even
breaking out now and then into what the judge thought looked like
smiles of satisfaction. And then the judge went out to hunt up his
hired man. He said to him,

"Mooney, what did you mean by telling me that our cow was dry and
ugly? You said you couldn't milk her, but Mr. Smith does so without
any difficulty, and the cow remains perfectly passive."

"I'd like to see him do it," said Mooney, incredulously.

Then Smith sat down and proceeded to perform the operation again. When
he began, Mooney exclaimed,

"Why, my gracious! that isn't the way you milk a cow, is it?"

"Of course it is," replied Smith. "How else would you do it?"

"Well, well! and that's the way _you_ milk, is it? I see now I didn't
go about it exactly right. Why, you know, I never had much experience
at the business; I was brought up in town, and, be George, when I
tackled her, I threw her over on her back and tried to milk her with a
clothes-pin. I see now I was wrong. We live and learn, don't we?"

[Illustration: THE JUDGE'S COW]

So Smith went home, and the cow remained, and the judge's man waxes
stronger in experience with the mysteries of existence daily.

But the cow was not a perfect animal, after all. Among other things,
Smith assured the judge that she had a splendid appetite. He said that
she was the easiest cow with her feed that he ever saw; she would eat
almost anything, and she was generally hungry.

At the end of the first week after she came, Mrs. Twiddler concluded
to churn. The hired man spent the whole day at the crank, and about
sunset the butter came. They got it out, and found that there was
almost half a pound. Then Mrs. Twiddler began to see how economical
it was to make her own butter. A half pound at the store cost thirty
cents. The wages of that man for one day were one dollar, and so the
butter was costing about three dollars a pound, without counting the
keep of the cow. When they tried the butter, it was so poor that they
couldn't eat it, and they gave it to the man to grease the wheelbarrow
with. It seemed somewhat luxurious and princely to maintain a cow
for the purpose of supplying grease at three dollars a pound for the
wheelbarrow, but it was hard to see precisely where the profits came
in. After about a fortnight the cow seemed so unhappy in the stable
that the judge turned her out in the yard.

The first night she was loose she upset the grape-arbor with her horns
and ate four young peach trees and a dwarf pear tree down to the
roots. The next day they gave her as much hay as she would eat, and
it seemed likely that her appetite was appeased. But an hour or two
afterward she swallowed six croquet-balls that were lying upon the
grass, and ate half a table-cloth and a pair of drawers from the
clothes-line. That evening her milk seemed thin, and the judge
attributed it to the indigestibility of the table-cloth.

During the night she must have got to walking in her sleep, for
she climbed over the fence; and when she was discovered, she was
swallowing one of Mrs. Twiddler's hoopskirts. That evening she ran dry
and didn't give any milk at all. The judge thought the exercise she
had taken must have been too severe, and probably the hoopskirt was
not sufficiently nutritious. It was comforting, however, to reflect
that she was less expensive, from the latter point of view, when she
was dry than when she was fresh. Next morning she ate the spout off
the watering-pot, and then put her head in the kitchen window and
devoured two dinner-plates and the cream-jug. Then she went out and
lay down on the strawberry-bed to think. While there something about
Judge Twiddler's boy seemed to exasperate her; and when he came over
into the yard after his ball, she inserted her horns into his trowsers
and flung him across the fence. Then she went to the stable and ate a
litter of pups and three feet of the trace-chain.

The judge felt certain that her former owner didn't deceive him when
he said her appetite was good. She had hunger enough for a drove of
cattle and a couple of flocks of sheep. That day the judge went after
the butcher to get him to buy her. When he returned with him, she had
just eaten the monkey-wrench and the screw-driver, and she was trying
to put away a fence-paling. The butcher said she was a fair-enough
sort of cow, but she was too thin. He said he would buy her if the
judge would feed her up and fatten her; and the judge said he would
try. He gave her that night food enough for four cows, and she
consumed it as if she had been upon half rations for a month. When she
finished, she got up, reached for the hired man's straw hat, ate it,
and then, bolting out into the garden, she put away the honeysuckle
vine and a coil of India-rubber hose. The man said that if it was his
cow he would kill her; and the judge told him that he had perhaps
better just knock her on the head in the morning.

During the night she had another attack of somnambulism, and while
wandering about she ate the door-mat from the front porch, bit off
all the fancy-work on top of the cast-iron gate, swallowed six loose
bricks that were piled up against the house, and then had a fit among
the rose bushes. When the judge came down in the morning, she seemed
to be breathing her last, but she had strength enough left to seize a
newspaper that the judge held in his hand; and when that was down,
she gave three or four kicks and rolled over and expired. It cost the
judge three dollars to have the carcase removed. Since then he has
bought his butter and milk and given up all kinds of live-stock.



Some of the public officers of Millburg are interesting in their way.
The civil service system of the village is based upon the principle
that if there is any particular function that a given man is wholly
unfitted to perform he should be chosen to perform it. The result is
that the business of our very small government goes plunging along in
the most surprising manner, with a promise that it will end some day
in chaos and revolution--of course upon a diminutive scale.

A representative man is Mr. Bones, the solitary night-watchman of the
town. One of the duties of Mr. Bones is to light the street-lamps. It
is an operation which does not require any very extraordinary effort
of the intellect; but during a part of the summer the mind of Mr.
Bones did not seem to be equal to the strain placed upon it by this
duty. It was observed that whenever there were bright moonlight nights
Mr. Bones would have all the lamps burning from early in the evening
until dawn, while upon the nights when there was no moon he would not
light them at all, and the streets would be as dark as tar. At last
people began to complain about it, and one day one of the supervisors
called to see Mr. Bones about it. He remarked to him,

"Mr. Bones, people are finding fault because you light up on moonlight
nights and don't light the lamps when it is dark. I'd like you to
manage the thing a little better."

"It struck me as being singular, too, but I can't help it. I've got
instructions to follow the almanac, and I'm going to follow it."

"Did the almanac say there'd be no moon last night?"

"Yes, it did."

"Well, the moon was shining, though, and at its full."

"I know," said Mr. Bones, "and that's what gits me. How in the thunder
the moon kin shine when the almanac says it won't beats me out.
Perhaps there's something the matter with the moon; got shoved off her
course may be."

"I guess not."

"Well, it's changed off somehow, and I've got to have something
regular to go by. I'm going by what the almanac says; and if the
moon's going to shuffle around kinder loose and not foller the
almanac, that's its lookout. If the almanac says no moon, then I'm
bound to light the lamps if there's millions of moons shining in the
sky. Them's my orders, and I'll mind 'em."

"How d'you know the almanac is not wrong?"

"Because I know it ain't. It was always right before."

"Let's look at it."

"There it is. Look there, now. Don't it say full moon on the 20th? and
this yer's only the 9th, and yet it's full moon now."

"That's so; and--Er--er--Less--see Er-er--Mr. Bones, do you know what
year this almanac is for?"

"Why, 1876, of course."

"No, it isn't; it's for 1866. It's ten years old."

"Oh no! 1866! Well, now, it is. I declare! 1866! Why, merciful Moses!
I got the wrong one off the shelf, and I've been depending on it
for three months! No wonder the lamps was wrong. Well, that beats

Then Mr. Bones tore up the almanac and got one for 1876, and ever
since that time the lamp-lighting department has given tolerable

But it is as a night-watchman that Mr. Bones shines with surpassing
splendor. When he first entered the service, he was very anxious to
make a good impression on Colonel Coffin, the burgess and head of the
village government; and the first night upon which he went on duty
Colonel Coffin was awakened about half-past twelve by a furious ring
at his door-bell. He looked out of the window and perceived the
watchman, who said,

"She's all right. Nobody's broke in. I've got my eye on things. You
kin depend on me."

The colonel thought he was one of the most faithful watchmen he ever
saw, and he returned serenely to bed. On the following night, just
after twelve, there was another energetic ring at the bell; and when
the burgess raised the window, the watchman said,

"Your girls ain't left the window-shutters open and the house is not
afire. All right as a trivet while I'm around, you bet!"

"Louisa," said the colonel to his wife as he returned to his couch,
"that is a splendid watchman, but I think he's just the least bit too

A couple of nights later, when the door-bell rang at half-past one,
the colonel felt somewhat angry, and he determined to stay in bed; but
the person on the step below at last began to kick against the front
door, when the colonel threw up the window and exclaimed,

"What do you want?"

It was the watchman, and he said,

"You know old Mrs. Biles up the street yer? Well, I've just rung Biles
up, and he says her rheumatism ain't no better. Thought you might want
to know, so I called. I felt kinder lonesome out here, too."

As Colonel Coffin slammed the sash down he felt mad and murderous. The
next night, however, that faithful guardian applied the toe of his
boot to the front door with such energy that the colonel leaped from
bed, and protruding his head from the window said,

"I wish to _gracious_ you'd stop kicking up this kind of fuss around
here every night! What do you mean, anyhow?"

"Why, I only stopped to tell you that Butterwick has two setter pups,
and that I'd get you one if you wanted it. Nothing mean about that, is

The colonel uttered an ejaculatory criticism upon Butterwick and the
pups as he closed the window, and a moment later he heard the watchman
call up Smith, who lives next door, and remark to him,

"They tell me it's a splendid season for bananas, Mr. Smith."

When Coffin heard Smith hurling objurgations about bananas and
watchmen out upon the midnight air, he knew it was immoral, but he
felt his heart warm toward Smith. The next time the watchman tried
to get the colonel out by ringing and kicking the colonel refused to
respond, and finally the watchman banged five barrels of his revolver.
Then Coffin came to the window in a rage.

"You eternal idiot," he said, "if you don't stop this racket at night,
I'll have you put under bonds to keep the peace."

"Oh, all right," replied the watchman. "I had something important to
tell you; but if you don't want to hear it, very well; I kin keep it
to myself."

"Well, what is it? Out with it!"

"Why, I heard to-day that the kangaroo down at the Park in the city
can't use one of its hind legs. Rough on the Centennial, ain't it?"

Then, as the colonel withdrew in a condition of awful rage, the
watchman sauntered up the street to break the news to the rest of the
folks. On the next night a gang of burglars broke into Coffin's house
and ransacked it from top to bottom. Toward morning Coffin heard them;
and hastily dressing himself and seizing his revolver, he proceeded
down stairs. The burglars heard him coming and fled. Then the colonel
sprang his rattle and summoned the neighbors. When they arrived, the
colonel, in the course of conversation, made some remarks about the
perfect uselessness of night-watchmen. Thereupon Mr. Potts said,

"I saw that fellow Bones only an hour ago two squares above here, at
McGinnis's, routing McGinnis out to tell him that old cheese makes the
best bait for catfish."

Mr. Bones was reprimanded, but he remained upon what is facetiously
known as "the force." The borough cannot afford to dispense with the
services of such an original genius as he.

Our sheriff is a man of rather higher intelligence, but he also has a
singular capacity for perpetrating dreadful blunders. Over in the town
of Nockamixon one of the churches last year called a clergyman
named Rev. Joseph Striker. In the same place, by a most unfortunate
coincidence, resides also a prize-fighter named Joseph Striker, and
rumors were afloat a few weeks ago that the latter Joseph was about to
engage in a contest with a Jersey pugilist for the championship. Our
sheriff considered it his duty to warn Joseph against the proposed
infraction of the laws, and so he determined to call upon the
professor of the art of self-defence. Unhappily, in inquiring the way
to the pugilist's house, somebody misunderstood the sheriff, and sent
him to the residence of the Rev. Joseph Striker, of whom he had never
heard. When Mr. Striker entered the room in answer to the summons, the
sheriff said to him familiarly,

"Hello, Joe! How are you?"

Mr. Striker was amazed at this address, but he politely said,


"Joe," said the sheriff, throwing his leg lazily over the arm of the
chair, "I came round here to see you about that mill with Harry Dingus
that they're all talking about. I want you to understand that it can't
come off anywheres around here. You know well enough it's against the
law, and I ain't a-going to have it."

"Mill! Mill, sir? What on earth do you mean?" asked Mr. Striker, in
astonishment. "I do not own any mill, sir. Against the law! I do not
understand you, sir."

"Now, see here, Joe," said the sheriff, biting off a piece of tobacco
and looking very wise, "that won't go down with me. It's pretty thin,
you know. I know well enough that you've put up a thousand dollars on
that little affair, and that you've got the whole thing fixed, with
Bill Martin for referee. I know you're going down to Pea Patch Island
to have it out, and I'm not going to allow it. I'll arrest you as sure
as a gun if you try it on, now mind me!"

"Really, sir," said Mr. Striker, "there must be some mistake about--"

"Oh no, there isn't; your name's Joe Striker, isn't it?" asked the

"My name is Joseph Striker, certainly."

"I knew it," said the sheriff, spitting on the carpet; "and you see
I've got this thing dead to rights. It sha'n't come off; and I'm doing
you a favor in blocking the game, because Harry'd curl you all up any
way if I let you meet him. I know he's the best man, and you'd just
lose your money and get all bunged up besides; so you take my advice
now, and quit. You'll be sorry if you don't."

"I do not know what you are referring to," said Mr. Striker. "Your
remarks are incomprehensible to me, but your tone is very offensive;
and if you have any business with me, I'd thank you to state it at

"Joe," said the sheriff, looking at him with a benign smile, "you play
it pretty well. Anybody'd think you were innocent as a lamb. But it
won't work, Joseph--it won't work, I tell you. I've got a duty to
perform, and I'm going to do it; and I pledge you my word, if you and
Dingus don't knock off now, I'll arrest you and send you up for ten
years as sure as death. I'm in earnest about it."

"What do you mean, sir?" asked Mr. Striker, fiercely.

"Oh, don't you go to putting on any airs about it. Don't you try any
strutting before me," said the sheriff; "or I'll put you under bail
this very afternoon. Let's see: how long were you in jail the last
time? Two years, wasn't it? Well, you go fighting with Dingus and
you'll get ten years sure."

"You are certainly crazy!" exclaimed Mr. Striker.

"I don't see what you want to stay at that business for, anyhow," said
the sheriff. "Here you are, in a snug home, where you might live
in peace and keep respectable. But no, you must associate with low
characters, and go to stripping yourself naked and jumping into a ring
to get your nose blooded and your head swelled and your body
hammered to a jelly; and all for what? Why, for a championship! It's
ridiculous. What good'll it do you if you're champion? Why don't you
try to be honest and decent, and let prize-fighting alone?"

"This is the most extraordinary conversation I ever listened to," said
Mr. Striker. "You evidently take me for a--"

"I take you for Joe Striker; and if you keep on, I'll take you to
jail," said the sheriff; with emphasis. "Now, you tell me who's got
those stakes and who's your trainer, and I'll put an end to the whole

"You seem to imagine that I am a pugilist," said Mr. Striker. "Let me
inform you, sir, that I am a clergyman."

"Joe," said the sheriff, shaking his head, "it's too bad for you to
lie that way--too bad, indeed."

"But I _am_ a clergyman, sir--pastor of the church of St. Sepulchre.
Look! here is a letter in my pocket addressed to me."

"You don't really mean to say that you're a preacher named Joseph
Striker?" exclaimed the sheriff, looking scared.

"Certainly I am. Come up stairs and I'll show you a barrelful of my

"Well, if this don't beat Nebuchadnezzar!" said the sheriff. "This is
awful! Why, I mistook you for Joe Striker, the prize-fighter! I don't
know how I ever--A preacher! What an ass I've made of myself! I don't
know how to apologize; but if you want to kick me down the front
steps, just kick away; I'll bear it like an angel."

Then the sheriff withdrew unkicked, and Mr. Striker went up stairs
to finish his Sunday sermon. The sheriff talked of resigning, but he
continues to hold on.

* * * * *

Mr. Slingsby, our assessor and tax-collector, holds on too. He
is another model member of our civil service. The principal
characteristic of Mr. Slingsby is enthusiasm. He has an idea that
whenever a man gets anything new it ought to be taxed, and he is
always on hand to perform the service. I had about fifteen feet added
to one of my chimneys last spring; and when it was done, Slingsby
called and assessed it, under the head of "improved real estate," at
eighty dollars, and collected two per cent. on it. A few days later,
while I was standing by the fence, Slingsby came up and said,

"Beautiful dog you have there."

"Yes; it's a setter."

"Indeed! A setter, hey? The tax on setters is two dollars. I'll
collect it now, while I have it on my mind."

I settled the obligation, and the next day Slingsby came around again.
He opened the conversation with the remark,

"Billy Jones told me down at the grocery-store that your terrier had
had pups."


"A large litter?"


"Indeed! Less see: tax is two dollars; four times two is eight--yes,
eight dollars tax, please. And hurry up, too, if you can, for they
have a new batch of kittens over at Baldwin's, and I want to ketch
old Baldwin before he goes out. By the way, when did you put that
weathercock on your stable?"


"You don't say! Well, hold on, then. Four times two is eight, and
four--on the weathercock, you know--is twelve. Twelve dollars is the
exact amount."

"What do you mean by four dollars tax on a weathercock? I never heard
of such a thing."

"Didn't, hey? Why, she comes in under the head of 'scientific
apparatus.' She's put up there to tell which way the wind blows, ain't
she? Well, that's scientific intelligence, and the apparatus is liable
to tax."

"Mr. Slingsby, that is the most absurd thing I ever heard of. You
might just as well talk of taxing Butterwick's twins."

"Butter--You don't mean to say Butterwick has twins? Why, certainly
they're taxable. They come in under the head of 'poll-tax.' Three
dollars apiece. I'll go right down there. Glad you mentioned it."
Then I paid him, and he left with Butterwick's twins on his

A day or two afterward Mr. Slingsby called to see me, and he said,

"I've got a case that bothers me like thunder. You know Hough the
tobacconist? Well, he's just bought a new wooden Indian to stand in
front of his store. Now, I have a strong feeling that I ought to tax
that figure, but I don't know where to place it. Would it come in as
'statuary'? Somehow that don't seem exactly the thing. I was going to
assess it under the head of 'idols,' but the idiots who got up this
law haven't got a word in in reference to idols. Think of that, will
you? Why, we might have paganism raging all over this country, and we
couldn't get a cent out of them. I'd a put that Indian under 'graven
images,' only they ain't mentioned, either. I s'pose I could tax the
bundle of wooden cigars in his fist as 'tobacco,' but that leaves out
the rest of the figure; and he's not liable to poll-tax because he
can't even vote. Now, how would it strike you if I levied on him as an
'immigrant'? He was made somewheres else than here, and he came here
from there, consequently he's an immigrant. That's my view. What do
you think of it?"

I advised him to try it upon that plan, and the next morning Mr.
Slingsby and Mr. Hough had a fight on the pavement in front of the
Indian because Mr. Slingsby tried to seize the immigrant for unpaid
taxes. Slingsby was taken home and put to bed, and the business of
collecting taxes was temporarily suspended. But Slingsby will be
around again soon with some new and ingenious ideas that he has
thought of during his illness.



Mrs. Banger has buried four husbands, and her experience of domestic
life in their company was so satisfactory that she recently married a
fifth, Mr. Banger. The name of her fourth was McFadden. The name of
her first and third was Smyth, while that of her second, oddly enough,
was Smith. Soon after her return from her last wedding-tour she was
visited by Mr. Toombs, the undertaker, who called ostensibly to
correct an error in his last bill. When Mrs. Banger entered the
parlor, Mr. Toombs greeted her cordially and said,

"Ah! Mrs. Smy--Banger, I mean; I hope I see you well? Did you have a
pleasant trip? Nice weather while you were away; a little backward,
maybe, but still comfortable, and likely to make things grow. Cemetery
looks beautiful now. I was out there to-day to a burying. Grass is
coming up charming on your lot, and I noticed a blackberry bush
growing out of Mr. Smyth's grave. He was fond of 'em, I reckon. There
they were lying, Smith and Smyth, and McFadden and the other Smyth,
all four of them. No woman could have done fairer with those men than
you did, ma'am; those mahogany coffins with silver-plated handles were
good enough for the patriarchs and prophets, and the President of the
United States himself daren't ask anything better than a hearse with
real ostrich feathers and horses that are black as ink all over.

"I know when we laid Mr. McFadden out I said to Tim Lafferty, my
foreman, that the affection you showed in having that man buried in
style almost made me cry; but I never fully realized what woman's love
really is till you made me line Mr. Smith's coffin with white satin
and let in a French plate-glass skylight over the countenance. That
worked on my feelings so that I pretty near forgot to distribute the
gloves to the mourners. And Mr. Smith was worthy of it; he deserved
it all. He was a man all over, no difference how you looked at him;
stoutish, maybe, and took a casket that was thick through, but he was
all there, and I know when you lost him it worried you like anything.

"Now, it's none of my business, Mrs. Banger; but casting my eye over
those graves to-day, it struck me that I might fix 'em up a little,
so's they'd be more comfortable like. I think McFadden wants a few
sods over the feet, and Smith's headstone has worked a little out of
plumb. He's settled some, I s'pose. I think I'd straighten it up and
put a gas-pipe railing around Mr. Smyth. And while you're about it,
Mrs. Banger, hadn't you better buy about ten feet beyond Mr. Smith,
so's there won't be any scrouging when you bury the next one? I like
elbow-room in a cemetery lot, and I pledge you my word it'll be a
tight squeeze to get another one in there and leave room for you
besides. It can't be done so's to look anyways right, and I know you
don't want to take all four of 'em out and make 'em move up, so's to
let the rest of you in. Of course it'd cut you up, and it'd cost like
everything, too.

"When a person's dead and buried, it's the fair thing to let him
alone, and not to go hustling him around. That's my view, any way; and
I say that if I was you, sooner than put Mr. Smith on top of McFadden
and Smyth on top of Smith, I'd buy in the whole reservation and lay
'em forty feet apart.

"And how _is_ Mr. Banger? Seem in pretty good health? Do you think we
are to have him with us long? I hope so; but there's consumption in
his family, I believe. Life is mighty uncertain. We don't know what
minute we may be called. I'm a forehanded kind of man, and while his
wedding-suit was being made I just stepped into the tailor's and ran
it over with a tape-measure, so's to get some idea of his size. You'd
hardly believe it, but I've got a black walnut casket at the shop
that'll fit him as exact as if it had been built for him. It was the
luckiest thing. An odd size, too, and wider than we generally make
them. I laid it away up stairs for him, to be prepared in case of
accident. You've been so clever with me that I feel 'sif I ought to
try my best to accommodate you; and I know how women hate to bother
about such things when their grief is tearing up their feelings and
they are fretting about getting their mourning-clothes in time for the

"And that's partly what I called to see you about, Mrs. McFa--Banger,
I mean. I've got a note to pay in the morning, and the man's pushing
me very hard; but I'm cleaned right out. Haven't got a cent. Now, it
occurred to me that maybe you'd advance me the money on Mr. Banger's
funeral if I'd offer you liberal terms. How does fifteen per cent.
strike you? and if he lives for six or seven years, I'll make it
twenty. Mind you, I offer the casket and the best trimmings, eight
carriages, the finest hearse in the county, and ice enough for
three days in the swelteringest weather in August. And I don't
mind--well--yes, I'll even agree to throw in a plain tombstone. If
you can do that to accommodate a friend, why, I'll--No? Don't want to
speculate on it? Oh, very well; I'm sorry, because I know you'd been
satisfied with the way I'd have arranged things. But no matter; I
s'pose I can go round and borrow elsewhere. Good-morning; drop in some
time, and I'll show you that casket."

As Toombs was going out he met Mr. Banger at the door. When he was
gone, Banger said,

"My dear, who is that very odd-looking man?"

And Mrs. Banger hesitated a moment, turned very red, and answered,

"That is--that man is--a--a--he is, I believe--a--a--a--a some kind of
a--an undertaker."

Then Banger looked gloomy and went up stairs to ponder. But Mrs.
Banger felt that she had a duty to perform in taking care that the lot
in the cemetery should not fall into such disorder as Mr. Toombs had
indicated, and she resolved to call upon Mr. Mix, at his monumental
marble-works, to get him to attend to the matter for her. Mr. Mix did
not know her, and his ignorance of her past history turned out to be
unfortunate. The following conversation occurred between them:

_Mrs. Banger_. "Mr. Mix, I am anxious to have my cemetery lot fixed
up--to put in new tombstones and reset the railing; and I called to
see if I could make some satisfactory arrangement with you."

_Mix_. "Certainly, madam. Tell me precisely what it is you want done."

_Mrs. B_. "Well, I'd like to have a new tombstone put over the grave
of John--my husband, you know--and to have a nice inscription cut in
it, 'Here lies John Smyth,' etc., etc. You know what I mean; the usual
way, of course, and maybe some kind of a design on the stone like a
broken rosebud or something."

_Mix_. "I understand."

_Mrs. B_. "Well, then, what'll you charge me for getting up a
headstone just like that, out of pretty good white marble, and with a
little picture of a torch upside down or a weeping angel on it, and
the name of Thomas Smith cut on it?"

_Mix_. "John Smyth, you mean."

_Mrs. B_. "No, I mean Thomas."

_Mix_. "But you said John before."

_Mrs. B_. "I know, but that was my first husband, and Thomas was my
second, and I want a new headstone for each of them. Now, it seems to
me, Mr. Mix, that where a person is buying more than one, that way,
you ought to make some reduction in the price--throw something off.
Though, of course, I want a pretty good article at all the graves. Not
anything gorgeous, but neat and tasteful and calculated to please the
eye. Mr. Smyth was not a man who was fond of show. Give him a thing
comfortable, and he was satisfied. Now, which do you think is the
prettiest, to have the name in raised letters in a straight line over
the top of the stone, or just to cut the words 'Alexander P. Smyth' in
a kind of a semicircle in sunken letters?"

_Mix_. "Did I understand you to say Alexander P.? Were you referring
to John or Thomas?"

_Mrs. B_. "Of course not. Aleck was my third. I'm not going to neglect
his grave while I'm fixing up the rest. I wish to make a complete
job of it, Mr. Mix, while I am about it, and I'm willing for you to
undertake it if you are reasonable in your charges. Now, what'll you
ask me for the lot, the kind I've described, plain but substantial,
and sunk about two feet I should think, at the head of each grave?
What'll you charge me for them--for the whole four?"

_Mix_. "Well, I'll put you in those three headstones--"


_Mrs. B. "Four_ headstones, Mr. Mix, not three."

_Mix_. "Four, was it? No; there was John and Thomas and Alexander P.
That's all you said, I think. Only three."

_Mrs. B_. "Why, I want one for Adolph too, as a matter of course, the
same as the others. I thought you knew I wanted one for Adolph, one
made just like John's, only with the name different. Adolph was my
fourth husband. He died about three years after I buried Philip, and
I'm wearing mourning for him now. Now, please give me your prices for
the whole of them."

_Mix_. "Well, madam, I want to be as reasonable as I can, and I tell
you what I'll do. You give me all your work in the future, and I'll
put you in those five headstones at hardly anything above cost; say--"

_Mrs. B_. "_Four_ headstones, not five."

_Mix_. "I think you mentioned five."

_Mrs. B_. "No; only four."

_Mix_. "Less see: there was John, and Thomas and Aleck, and Adolph and

_Mrs. B_. "Yes, but Aleck and Philip were the same one. His middle
name was Philip, and I always called him by it."

_Mix_. "Mrs. Banger, I'll be much obliged to you if you'll tell me
precisely how many husbands you have planted up in that cemetery lot.
This thing's getting a little mixed."

_Mrs. B_. "What do you mean, sir, by saying planted? I never 'planted'
anybody. It's disgraceful to use such language."

_Mix_. "It's a technical term, madam. We always use it, and I don't
see as it's going to hurt any old row of fellows named Smyth. Planted
is good enough for other men, and it's good enough for them."

_Mrs. B_. "Old row of--What d'you mean, you impudent vagabond? I
wouldn't let you put a headstone on one of my graves if you'd do it
for nothing."

Then Mrs. Banger flounced out of the shop, and Mix called after her as
she went through the door,

"Lemme know when you go for another man, and I'll throw him in a
tombstone for a wedding-present He'll want it soon."

Mrs. Banger subsequently procured the services of a person in the
city, and she regards Mr. Mix with something like detestation.

But Mrs. Banger herself is not universally beloved. Colonel Coffin
knows of one woman who despises her methods and desires her complete
repression. A short time after the election of the colonel to the
Legislature a lady called to see him at his law-office. When she had
closed the door, she sat down and said,

"Colonel, my name is Mooney. I am unmarried--a single woman. I called
to see you in reference to pushing a bill through the Legislature
for the benefit of maiden ladies such as myself. Let me direct your
attention to some extraordinary facts. Statistics tell us that in the
entire population of the world there are one-fourth more women than
men. In this country the proportion of women to men is slightly
larger. In this State there are two and one-eighth women to every man.
Now, this outrageous condition of affairs--"

"Excuse me for a moment, madam," said the colonel. "Really, the
Legislature can do nothing to improve the matter. It cannot regulate
the proportion of the sexes by law."

"I know it," replied Miss Mooney. "That is not what I am coming at. I
say that this condition of affairs is grossly unjust. If I had had the
management of it, and had been compelled to arrange that there should
be more women than men, I certainly should not have had any fractions.
There are not only two women for every man, but an eighth of a woman
besides, so that ever so many of us women would each belong to eight
different men if a fair distribution were made. How do I know, for
instance, that an eighth of me does not belong to you? Why, I don't
know it; and I say it's awful."

"If such is the case, madam," said the colonel, "I surrender all my
rights without waiting for a legislative enactment."

"Excuse me," replied Miss Mooney, "but you do not catch the drift of
my remarks. Of course, while the laws against bigamy are in existence,
some of those women can never be married, although for my part, when a
man has two wives and an eighth of another wife, I call it polygamy.
Well, now, the point I want to make is this: When more than half of us
can't marry, it's only right that the other half should have a fair
chance. There are not men enough to go round, any how, and for
gracious' sake let's make them go as far as they honestly will. Well,
then, how'll we do it? How'll we make an equitable distribution of
those men?"

"Hanged if I know, madam. The Legislature daren't meddle with them."

"I'll tell you how to do it. Listen to me. Shut down on the widows.
You hear me! Suppress the widows. Make it death for any widow to marry
again. That's my remedy; and there'll never be any justice till it's
the law. Just look at it! When a woman has been married once, she's
had more than her share of the male population; she's had her own
share and the share of another woman and an eighth. Is it right, is it
honorable, for that woman to go and marry another man, and take the
share of two more women and an eighth? I say, is it just the thing?"

"Well, on the surface it does look a little crooked."

"Crooked is not the word. Colonel Coffin, I know these widows. I
have had my eye on them. They've got a way of bursting into a man's
feelings and walking off with his affections that fills a modest woman
like me with gall and bitterness. You know Mrs. Banger? No? Well, now,
look at her, f'r instance. First she married Mr. Smyth, although what
on earth he ever saw to admire about _her_ I cannot imagine. That was
her allowance. Having obtained Smyth, oughtn't she to have stood back
and given some other woman a chance--now, oughtn't she?"

"Really, madam, I am hardly able to express an opinion."

"But no. After a while Smyth succumbed. He died. She entombed him,
crying, mind you, all the time, as if, having lost Smyth, she wanted
to die and join Smyth in the grave and in Paradise. But no sooner was
he well settled than she began to flirt with Mr. Smith, and what does
he do but yield to her blandishments and marry her? Took her, and
seemed to glory in it.

"Now, you'd've thought that she'd've been satisfied with that, when
she'd got the share of four women and a quarter. But pretty soon, as
luck would have it, Smith, died and she hustled _him_ into the grave.
And in less than a year afterward I was amazed to hear that she was
going to marry another Smyth. I was never more astonished in my life.
Positively going to annex a third man, when the supply was too short
anyway. Did you ever hear of such impudence? Did you, now?"

"I'll think it over and see if I can remember."

"Well, then, I thought for certain _now_ that woman would knock off
and give the rest of us some kind of a chance; and when Smyth was
killed by cholera and interred, it never entered my head that that
widow'd go after _another_ man. But, bless your soul! she'd hardly got
into second mourning before she began to pursue Mr. McFadden, and
got him. Now, look at it. One woman, no better'n I am, has had the
property of eight women and a half, and here I am single and getting
on in life, with the chances growing absurdly small. No civilized
country ought to tolerate such a thing. It's worse than piracy. You
may scuttle a ship or blow her up or run her against the rocks, and no
great harm is done, because timber's plenty and you can build another
one. But when one woman scuttles three men and then ties to a fourth,
what are you going to do about it? You can't go out into the woods and
chop down trees and saw them up and tack them together and build a
man. Now, can you?"

"That seems to be the common impression, anyway."

"Just so. And I want you to pass a bill through that Legislature to
make it a felony for a widow to marry again. I've drawn up a draft of
a bill and I'll leave it with you. I've made it retroactive, so that
it'll bring that woman Banger up with a short turn and send her after
Smith and the others. I don't care to marry, myself, but I want
justice. Are you married?"

"Madam, leave the bill with me and I will examine it."

"I say are you married?"

"I--I--married did you say? Oh yes. I've been married for ten years."

"Very well, then; good-morning;" and Miss Mooney withdrew.

"Thunder!" exclaimed the colonel as he shut the door. "If I'd've been
single, I believe she'd've proposed on the spot."

It is not considered likely that the Mooney anti-widow bill will be
pushed very hard in the Legislature next session.



One evening I met Mr. Potts out upon the turnpike, taking a walk;
and I joined him. As we proceeded he became rather confidential. The
subject of the mania for collecting bric-a-brac came up; and after an
expression of opinion from me respecting the matter, Mr. Potts told
the story of his wife's fondness for that kind of thing. He said,

"My wife is the most infatuated bric-a-brac hunter I ever heard of.
She's an uncommonly fine woman about most things; loves her children;
makes splendid pies; don't fool with any of those fan-dangling ways
women have of fixing their hair; and she's an angel for temper. But
she beats Mrs. Toodles for going to auctions. She's filled my house
with the wildest mess of bric-a-brac and such stuff you ever came
across outside of a museum of natural curiosities. She's spent
more money for wrecks that wouldn't be allowed in the cellar of a
poor-house than'd keep a family in comfort for years.

"You know Scudmore, who sold out the other day? She was there, bidding
away like a millionaire. Came home with a wagon-load of things--four
albata tea-pots without lids or handles; two posts of a bedstead and
three slats; a couple of churns and fourteen second-hand sun-bonnets,
and more mournful refuse like that. Said she didn't intend to buy,
but she bid on them to run them up to help Mrs. Scudmore, and the
auctioneer knocked them down quicker'n a wink. Said it was 'Lot 47,'
and she had to take it all. And she said maybe she could make up the
sun-bonnets into bibs for the baby and use the tea-pots for preserves.
She thought she might make a pretty fair bedstead out of the posts by
propping the other ends on a chair; and she said it was a lucky thing
she was so forehanded about those churns, because she might have a
cow knocked down to her, and then she would be all ready for
butter-making. More'n likely she'll buy some old steer and bring him
home while she's rummaging around for bric-a-brac.

"When the Paxtons had their sale in January she was around there,
of course, and came home after dinner with the usual dismembered
furniture; and when I said to her, 'Emma, why under Heaven did you buy
in the mud-dredge and the sausage-stuffer?' she said she thought the
sausage-stuffer would do for a cannon for the boys on the Fourth of
July, and there was no telling if Charley wouldn't want to be a
civil engineer when he grew up, and perhaps he'd get a contract for
deepening the channel of the river; and then he'd rise up and bless
the foresight of the mother who'd bought a mud-dredge for two dollars
and saved it up for him.

"I sold that scoop on Wednesday for old iron for fifteen cents; and
I'll bang the head off of Charley if he ever goes to dredging mud or
playing cannon with the sausage-stuffer. I won't have my boys carrying
on in that way.

"Over there at Robinson's sale I believe she'd've bid on the whole
concern if I hadn't come in while she was going it. As it was,
she bought an aneroid barometer, three dozen iron skewers, a
sacking-bottom and four volumes of Eliza Cook's poems. Said she
thought those volumes were some kind of cookery-books, or she wouldn't
have bid on them, and the barometer would be valuable to tell us which
was north. _North_, mind you! She thought it indicated the points of
the compass. And yet they want to let women vote! I threw in those
skewers along with the mud-dredge, and she's used the sacking-bottom
twice to patch Charley's pants; and that's all the good we ever got
out of that auction.

"But she don't care for utility; it's simply a mania for buying
things. We haven't a stove in the house, and yet what does she do at
Murphy's sale but bid on sixty-two feet and three elbows of rusty
stovepipe and cart it home with four debilitated gingham umbrellas.
Said the umbrellas were a bargain because, by putting in new covers
and handles and a rib here and there, they would do for birthday
presents for her aunts. And the stovepipe could be sent out to the
farm to be put around the peach trees to keep the cows off. How in
thunder she was ever going to get a stovepipe around a peach tree
never crossed her mind. She is just as impractical as a baby.

"When Bailey had the auction at his insurance office, there she was,
and, sure enough, that afternoon she landed in our side yard with
Bailey's poll-parrot and a circular saw. It amused me. She wanted to
use that saw as a dinner-gong, but it was cracked, and so she has
turned it into a griddle for muffins. Bailey had taught the parrot to
swear so that I was afraid it'd demoralize Charley, and I don't mind
telling you in confidence that I killed it by putting bug-poison in a

"Now, I see there's an auction advertised for Friday at Peters'; and
Peters has a pyramid of old tomato cans and bric-a-brac of that sort
piled up in his back yard. Now, you see if that woman don't bid on
those cans until she runs them up to a dollar apiece, and then come
lugging them around to our house with some extraordinary idea about
loading them up with gunpowder and selling them to the government
during the next war for bombshells. If she does, that winds the thing
up. I'm a good-natured man, but no woman shall bring home three
hundred tomato cans to my house and retain a claim upon my affections.
I'll resign first."

My feeling was that he was a little mixed in his notions about
bric-a-brac, but that he really had a grievance.

* * * * *

Potts told me, also, that he came home very late one night recently,
and when he went up stairs his wife and children were in bed asleep.
He undressed as softly as he could, and then, as he felt thirsty, he
thought he would get a drink of water. Fortunately, he saw a gobletful
standing on the washstand, placed there for him, evidently, by Mrs.
Potts. He seized it and drank the liquid in two or three huge gulps,
but just as he was draining the goblet he gagged, dropped the glass to
the floor, where it was shivered to atoms, while he ejected something
from his mouth. He was certain that a live animal of some kind had
been in the water, and that he had nearly swallowed it. This theory
was confirmed when he saw the object which he spat out go bounding
over the floor. He pursued it, kicking a couple of chairs over while
doing so, and at last he put his foot on it and held it. Of course
Mrs. Potts was wide awake by this time and scared nearly to death, and
the baby was screaming at the top of its lungs. Mrs. Potts got out of
bed and turned up the gas, and said,

"Mr. Potts, what in the name of common sense is the matter?"

"It's a mouse!" shouted Potts, in an excited manner. "It's a mouse in
the goblet. I nearly swallowed it, but I spat it out, and now I've got
my foot on it. Get a stick and kill it, quick!"

[Illustration: MR. POTTS' MOUSE]

Mrs. Potts was at first disposed to jump on a chair and scream, for,
like all women, she feared a mouse very much more than she did a
tiger. But at Potts' solicitation she got the broom and prepared to
demolish the mouse when Potts lifted his foot. He drew back, and she
aimed a fearful blow at the object and missed it. Then, as it did not
move, she took a good look at it. Then she threw down the broom, and
after casting a look of scorn at Potts, she said,

"Come to bed, you old fool! that's not a mouse."

"What d'you mean?"

"Why, you simpleton, that's the baby's India-rubber bottle-top that
I put in the goblet to keep it sweet. You ought to be ashamed of
yourself carrying on in this manner at one o'clock in the morning."

Then Potts turned in. After this he will drink at the pump.

* * * * *

In the course of the conversation I remarked that I had seen some men
fixing Potts' roof recently; and when I asked Potts if anything was
the matter, he said,

"My roof was shingled originally; but as it leaked, I had the shingles
removed and a gravel-and-felt roof put on. The first night after it
was finished there was a very high wind, which blew the gravel
off with such force that it broke thirty-four panes of glass in
Butterwick's house, next door. The wind also tore up the felt and blew
it over the edge, so that it hung down over the front of the house
like a curtain. Of course it made the rooms pitch-dark, and I did not
get up until one o'clock in the afternoon, but lay there wondering how
it was the night seemed so long.

"Then I had a tin roof put on, and it did well enough for a while.
But whenever there was a heavy rain or the wind was high, it used to
rattle all night with a noise like the battle of Gettysburg. At last
it began to leak, and a tinner sent a man around to find the hole. He
spent a week on that roof, and he spread half a ton of solder over
it, but still it leaked. And finally, when the snow came, the water
trickled down the wall and ran into an eight-hundred-dollar piano,
which will be closed out at a low figure to anybody who wants mahogany
kindling-wood. When the tin was removed and the new slate roof was put
on, the slates used to get loose and slide down on the head of the
hired girl while she was hanging up the clothes. And when the man came
to replace the slates, he plunged off the roof and broke four ribs
and his leg, whereupon he sued me for damages. And while the case was
pending in court a snow-storm came. The snow blew in under the slates,
and my oldest boy spent the day with some of his friends snow-balling
and sledding in the garret. Then the snow on the garret floor
melted and wet the wall-paper down stairs, so that the house became
frightfully damp, and we had to move over to the hotel for a

"Then I tried the 'Patent Incombustible' roofing, because the man said
it would not only keep out the rain, but it was perfectly fireproof. A
week after it was on, Butterwick's stable caught fire and flung up
a great many sparks. All the houses in the neighborhood, however,
escaped--all except mine. My roof was in flames before the stable
was done burning; and when the firemen had put it out, they got to
fighting on my front stairs, with the result that the banister was
broken to splinters, a two-inch stream was played into the parlor for
fifteen minutes, and Chief Engineer Johnson bled all over our best

"I have the 'Impervious Cement Roof' on now, and it seems to do well
enough, excepting that it isn't impervious. It lets in the water at
eight different places; and whenever there is a shower, I have to rush
my family out on the roof to shelter it with umbrellas. I fully expect
it will explode some night, or do some other deadly and infamous
thing. I am going to put the house up at auction and live in a circus

* * * * *

They had a big excitement over at Potts' the other day about their
cat. They heard the cat howling and screeching somewhere around the
house for two or three days, but they couldn't find her. Potts used to
get up at night, fairly maddened with the noise, and heave things out
the back window at random, hoping to hit her and discourage her. But
she never seemed to mind them; and although eventually he fired off
pretty nearly every movable thing in the house excepting the piano,
she continued to shriek and scream in a manner that was simply
appalling. At last, one day, Potts made a critical examination of the
premises, and, guided by the noise, he finally located the cat in the
tin waterspout which descends the north wall of the house. He thinks
the cat must have been skylarking on the roof some dark night and
accidentally tumbled into the spout.

Potts tried to shake her down by hammering on the spout with a stick;
but the more he pounded, the louder she yelled, and the two noises
roused the entire neighborhood and attracted the attention of the
police. Then he procured a clothes-prop; and ascending to the roof, he
endeavored to push the animal out. But the stick was not long enough
to reach her. All it was good for was to make her howl more loudly;
and it did that. At last Potts concluded to take the spout down and
coax the cat out. When he got it on the ground, he peeped in at the
end, and he could see the animal's eyes shining like balls of fire far
back in the darkness of the hole. After shaking her up for a while
without inducing her to move, he made up his mind that she must be
jammed in the pipe and unable to budge. He wanted to cut the pipe
open, but Butterwick said it would be a pity to spoil such a good
spout for a mere cat.

So Potts finally determined to blow her out with powder. He procured a
small charge; and pushing it pretty well in with a stick, he "tamped"
the end of the spout with clay and lighted the slow-match. Two minutes
later there was an explosion, and the tamping-clay flew out and struck
Butterwick with some violence in the ribs, curling him all up on the
grass by the pump. When he recovered his breath, he got up and said,

"Hang your infernal cat! It's an outrage for you to be endangering the
lives of people with your diabolical schemes for getting at a beas'
that ought to've been killed long ago."

Then Butterwick sullenly got over the fence and went home, and the cat
meanwhile kept up a yowling that made everybody's hair stand on end.

Potts said that he made a mistake in not placing the butt of the spout
against something solid. And so, after putting in a couple of pounds
of powder, he turned the spout up and rested the end upon the ground,
propping it against the pump. Then he lighted the slow-match, and the
crowd scattered. There was a loud explosion, a general distribution of
fragments of tin around the yard, and then out from the upper end of
the spout there sailed something black. It ascended; it went higher
and higher and higher, until it was a mere speck; then it came sailing
down, down, down, until it struck the earth. It was the cat, singed
off, burned to a crisp, looking as if it had been spending the summer
in Vesuvius, but apparently still active and hearty; for as soon as it
alighted it set up a wild, unearthly screech and darted off for the
woodshed, where it continued to howl until Potts went in and killed it
with his shotgun. It cost him forty dollars for a new spout, but he
says he doesn't grudge the money now that he has stopped that fiendish

* * * * *

Potts' clock got out of order one day last winter and began to strike
wrong. That was the cause of the fearful excitement at his house on a
certain night. They were all in bed sound asleep at midnight, when the
clock suddenly struck _five_. The new hired girl, happening to
wake just as it began, heard it, and bounced out of bed under the
impression that morning had come. And as it is dark at 5 A.M. just at
that season, she did not perceive her mistake, but went down into the
kitchen and began to get breakfast.

[Illustration: SHOOTING A BURGLAR]

While she was bustling about in a pretty lively manner, Potts happened
to wake, and he heard the noise. He opened his room door cautiously
and crept softly to the head of the stairs to listen. He could
distinctly hear some one moving about the kitchen and dining-room and
apparently packing up the china. Accordingly, he went back to his room
and woke Mrs. Potts, and gave her orders to spring the rattle out
of the front window the moment she heard his gun go off. Then Potts
seized his fowling-piece; and going down to the dining-room door,
where he could hear the burglars at work, he cocked the gun, aimed it,
pushed the door open with the muzzle and fired. Instantly Mrs. Potts
sprang the rattle, and before Potts could pick up the lacerated hired
girl the front door was burst open by two policemen, who came into the

Seeing Potts with a gun, and a bleeding woman on the floor, they
imagined that murder had been committed, and one of them trotted Potts
off to the station-house, while the other remained to investigate
things. Just then the clock struck six. An explanation ensued from the
girl, who only had a few bird-shot in her leg, and the policeman left
to bring Potts home. He arrived at about three in the morning, just as
the clock was striking eight. When the situation was unfolded to him,
his first action was to jam the butt of his gun through the clock,
whereupon it immediately struck two hundred and forty-three, and then
Potts pitched it over the fence. He has a new clock now, and things
are working better.

* * * * *

The Pottses celebrated their "iron wedding" one day last winter, and
they invited about one hundred and twenty guests to the wedding. Of
course each person felt compelled to bring a present of some kind; and
each one did. When Mr. and Mrs. Smith came, they handed Potts a pair
of flatirons. When Mr. and Mrs. Jones arrived, they also had a pair of
flatirons. All hands laughed at the coincidence. And there was even
greater merriment when the Browns arrived with two pairs of flatirons.
But when Mr. and Mrs. Robinson came in with another pair of flatirons,
the laughter became perfectly convulsive.

There was, however, something less amusing about it when the Thompsons
arrived with four flatirons wrapped in brown paper. And Potts' face
actually looked grave when the three Johnson girls were ushered into
the parlor carrying a flatiron apiece. Each one of the succeeding
sixty guests brought flatirons, and there was no break in the
continuity until old Mr. Curry arrived from Philadelphia with a
cast-iron cow-bell. Now, Potts has no earthly use for a cow-bell, and
at any other time he would have treated such a present with scorn. But
now he was actually grateful to Mr. Curry, and he was about to embrace
him, when the Walsinghams came in with the new kind of-double-pointed
flatirons with wooden handles. And all the rest of the guests brought
the same articles excepting Mr. Rugby, and he had with him a patent
stand for holding flatirons. Potts got madder and madder every minute,
and by the time the company had all arrived he was nearly insane with
rage; and he went up to bed, leaving his wife to entertain the guests.
In the morning they counted up the spoils, and found that they had two
hundred and thirteen flatirons, one stand and a cow-bell. And now the
Pottses have cut the Smiths and Browns and Johnsons and Thompsons
and the rest entirely, for they are convinced that there was a
preconcerted design to play a trick upon them.

[Illustration: A FLAT-IRON WEDDING]

The fact, however, is that the hardware store in the place had an
overstock of flatirons and sold them at an absurdly low figure, and
Potts' guests unanimously went for the cheapest thing they could
find, as people always do on such occasions. Potts thinks he will not
celebrate his "silver wedding."



There was some horse-racing over at the Blank course one day last
fall, and Butterwick attended to witness it. On his way home in the
cars in the afternoon he encountered Rev. Dr. Dox, a clergyman who
knows no more about horse-racing than a Pawnee knows about psychology.
Butterwick, however, took for granted, in his usual way, that the
doctor was familiar with the subject; and taking a seat beside him, he
remarked loudly--for the doctor is deaf--

"I was out at the Blank course to-day to see Longfellow."

"Indeed! Was he there? Where did you say he was?"

"Why, over here at the course. I saw him and General Harney, and a
lot more of 'em. He run against General Harney, and it created a big
excitement, too; but he beat the general badly, and the way the crowd
cheered him was wonderful. They say that a good deal of money changed
hands. The fact is I had a small bet upon the general myself."

"You don't mean to say that Longfellow actually _beat_ General

"Yes, I do! Beat him the worst kind. You'd hardly've thought it, now,
would you? I was never more surprised in my life. What's queer about
it is that he seemed just as fresh afterward as before he commenced.
Didn't faze him a bit. Why, instead of wanting to rest, he was jumping
about just as lively; and when the crowd began to push around him, he
kicked a boy in the back and doubled him all up--nearly killed him.
Oh, he's wicked! I wouldn't trust him as far as I could see him."

"This is simply astonishing," said the doctor. "I wouldn't have
believed it possible. Are you _sure_ it was Longfellow, Mr.

"Why, certainly, of course; I've seen him often before. And after
breathing a while, he and Maggie Mitchell came out, and as soon as
they stepped off he put on an extra spurt or two and led her by a neck
all around the place, and she came in puffing and blowing, and nearly
exhausted. I never took much stock in her, anyway."

"Led her by the neck! Why, this is the most scandalous conduct I ever
heard of. Mr. Butterwick, you must certainly be joking."

"I pledge you my word it's the solemn truth. I saw it myself. And
after that Judge Bullerton and General Harney, they took a turn
together, and that was the prettiest contest of the day. First the
judge'd beat the general, and then the general'd put in a big effort
and give it to the judge, and the two'd be about even for a while, and
all of a sudden the general would give a kinder jerk or two and leave
the judge just nowhere, and by the time the general passed the third
quarter the judge keeled over against the fence and gave in. They say
he broke his leg, but I don't know if that's so or not. Anyway he was
used up. If he'd passed that quarter, he might have been all right."

"What was the matter with the quarter? Wasn't it good?"

"Oh yes. But you see the judge must have lost his wind or something;
and I reckon when he tumbled it was something like a faint, you know."

"Served him right for engaging in such a brutal contest."

"Well, I dunno. Depends on how you look at such things. And when that
was over, Longfellow entered with Mattie Evelyn. He kept shooting past
her all the time, and this worried her so that she ran a little to one
side, and somehow, I dunno how it happened, but his leg tripped her,
and she rolled over on the ground, hurt pretty bad, I think, while

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