THE WATER GOATS AND OTHER TROUBLES
BY ELLIS PARKER BUTLER
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
Pigs is Pigs
The Great American Pie Company
Mike Flannery On Duty and off
The Thin Santa Claus
That Pup, Kilo, etc.
THE WATER GOATS AND OTHER TROUBLES
BY ELLIS PARKER BUTLER
I. THE WATER GOATS
II. MR. BILLINGS'S POCKETS
III. OUR FIRST BURGLAR
THE WATER GOATS
"And then," said the landscape gardener, combing his silky,
pointed beard gently with his long, artistic fingers, "in the
lake you might have a couple of gondolas. Two would be sufficient
for a lake of this size; amply sufficient. Yes," he said firmly,
"I would certainly advise gondolas. They look well, and the
children like to ride on them. And so do the adults. I would have
two gondolas in the lake."
Mayor Dugan and the City Council, meeting as a committee of the
whole to receive the report of the landscape gardener and his
plan for the new public park, nodded their heads sagely.
"Sure!" said Mayor Dugan. "We want two of thim--of thim gon--
"Gondolas," said the landscape gardener. "Sure!" said Mayor
Dugan, "we want two of thim. Remimber th' gondolas, Toole."
"I have thim fast in me mind," said Toole. "I will not let
thim git away, Dugan."
The landscape gardener stood a minute in deep thought, looking
at the ceiling.
"Yes, that is all!" he said. "My report, and the plan, and what
I have mentioned, will be all you need."
Then he shook hands with the mayor and with all the city
councilmen and left Jeffersonville forever, going back to New
York where landscape gardeners grow, and the doors were opened
and the committee of the whole became once more the regular
meeting of the City Council.
The appropriation for the new park was rushed through in twenty
minutes, passing the second and third readings by the reading of
the title under a suspension of the by-laws, and being
unanimously adopted. It was a matter of life and death with Mayor
Dugan and his ring. Jeffersonville was getting tired of the
joyful grafters, and murmurs of discontent were concentrating
into threats of a reform party to turn the cheerful rascals out.
The new park was to be a sop thrown to the populace--something to
make the city proud of itself and grateful to its mayor and
council. It was more than a pet scheme of Mayor Dugan, it was a
lifeboat for the ring. In half an hour the committees had been
appointed, and the mayor turned to the regular business. Then
from his seat at the left of the last row little Alderman Toole
"Misther Mayor," he said, "how about thim--thim don--thim don--
"Golas!" whispered Alderman Grevemeyer hoarsely, "dongolas."
"How about thim dongolas, Misther Mayor?" asked Alderman Toole.
"Sure!" said the mayor. "Will annyone move that we git two
dongolas t' put in th' lake for th' kids t' ride on? Will annyone
move that Alderman Toole be a conmittee of wan t' git two
dongolas t' put in th' lake?"
"I make dot motions," said Alderman Greveneyer, half raising
his great bulk from his seat and sinking back with a grunt.
"Sicond th' motion," said Alderman Toole.
"Moved and siconded," said the mayor, "that Alderman Toole be a
committee t' buy two dongolas t' put in th' lake for th' kids t'
ride on. Ye have heard th' motion."
The motion was unanimously carried. That was the kind of City
Council Mayor Dugan had chosen.
When little Alderman Toole dropped into Casey's saloon that
night on his way home he did not slip meekly to the far end of
the bar, as he usually did. For the first time in his aldermanic
career he had been put on a committee where he would really have
something to do, and he felt the honour. He boldly took a place
between the big mayor and Alderman Grevemeyer, and said: "One of
th' same, Casey," with the air of a man who has matters of
importance on his mind. He felt that things were coming his way.
Even the big mayor seemed to appreciate it, for he put his hand
affectionately on Toole's shoulder.
"Mike," said the mayor, "about thim dongolas, now; have ye
thought anny about where ye would be gettin' thim?"
"I have not," said Toole. "I was thinkin' 'twould be good t'
think it over a bit, Dugan. Mebby 'twould be best t' git thim at
Chicagy." He looked anxiously at the mayor's face, hoping for
some sign of approval or disapproval, but the mayor's face was
noncommittal. "But mebby it wouldn't," concluded Toole. As a
feeler he added: "Would ye be wantin' me t' have thim made here,
The big mayor patted Toole on the shoulder indulgently.
"It's up t' you, Mike," he said. "Ye know th' way Dugan does
things, an' th' way he likes thim done. I trust thim that I kin
trust, an' whin I put a man on committee I'm done wid th' thing.
Of coorse," he added, putting his mouth close to Toole's ear, and
winking at Grevemeyer, "ye will see that there is a rake-off for
me an' th' byes."
"Sure!" said Toole.
The big mayor turned back to the bar and took a drink from his
glass. Grevemeyer took a drink from his glass, also. So did
Toole, gravely. Dugan wiped his mouth on the back of his hand and
turned to Toole again.
"Mike," he said, "what do ye think? Mebby 'twould do as well t'
git a couple of sicond-hand dongolas an' have thim painted up. If
they was in purty good shape no wan would know th' difference,
an' 'twould make a bit more rake-off fer th' byes, mebby."
"Th' same word was on th' ind o' me tongue, Dugan," said Toole,
nodding his head slowly. "I was considerin' this very minute
where I could lay me hand on a couple of purty good dongolas that
has not been used much. Flannagan could paint thim up fine!"
"Or Stoltzenau could do such paintings," interposed Grevemeyer.
"Sure!" agreed the big mayor. He toyed with his glass a moment.
"Mike," he said suddenly, "what th' divil is a dongola, anyhow?"
Mike Toole was just raising his glass to his lips with the
movements of one accustomed to hold conversation with the mayor.
His left hand rested on his hip, with his arm akimbo, and his hat
was tipped carelessly to the back of his head. The hand raising
his glass stopped short where it was when he heard the mayor's
question. He frowned at the glass--scowled at it angrily.
"A dongola, Dugan"--he said slowly, and stopped. "A dongola"--
he repeated. "A dongola--did ye ask me what a dongola might be,
The big mayor nodded, and Grevemeyer leaned forward to catch
the answer. Casey, too, leaned on his bar and listened. Alderman
Toole raised his glass to his lips and filled his mouth with the
liquor. Instantly he dashed the glass furiously to the floor. He
jerked off his hat and cast it into a far corner and pulled off
his coat, throwing it after his hat. He was climbing on to the
bar when the big mayor and Grevemeyer laid their hands on the
little man and held him tightly. The big mayor shook him once and
set him on the floor.
"Mike!" said the big mayor. "What's th' matter wid ye? What are
ye goin' afther Casey that way for? Is it crazy ye are? Or have
ye gone insane?"
"Knock-out drops!" shouted Toole, shaking his fist at Casey,
who looked down at him in astonishment. "Knock-out drops! I will
have th' law on ye, Casey. I will have th' joint closed! I'll
teach ye t' be givin' knock-out drops t' th' aldermin of th'
"Mike!" cried the big mayor, giving him another vigorous shake.
"Shut up wid ye! Casey wouldn't be givin' ye annything that
wasn't good for ye. Casey wouldn't be givin' ye knock-out drops."
"No?" whispered Mike angrily. "No? Wouldn't he, Dugan? An' what
has he done t' me mimory, then, Dugan? What has he put in th'
drink t' rob me of me mimory? Wan minute ago I knew as well anny
other man what a dongola is like, an' now I have no mimory of
anny dongolas at all. Wan minute ago I could have told ye th'
whole history of dongolas, from th' time of Adam up till now, an'
have drawed a picture of wan that annywan could recognize--an'
now I wouldn't know wan if ye was show it t' me! I was about t'
tell ye th' whole history of dongolas, Dugan; 'twas on th' ind of
me tongue t' give ye a talk on dongolas, whin I took a drink. Ye
saw me take a drink, Grevemeyer?"
"Ya!" said Grevemeyer. nodding his head solemnly. "You took
such a drink!"
"Sure," said Toole, arranging his vest. "Grevemeyer saw me take
th' drink--an now I have no mimory of dongolas at all. If ye was
t' show me a chromo of wan I wouldn't know was it a dongola or
what. I'm ashamed of ye, Casey!"
"If ye done it, Casey, ye hadn't have ought t' have done it,"
said Dugan reprovingly. "Th' mind of him might be ruined
"Stop, Dugan!" said Toole hastily. "I forgive him. Me mind will
likely be all right by mornin'. 'Tis purty good yit, ixcipt on
th' subjict of dongolas. I'm timporarily out of remimbrance what
dongolas is. 'Tis odd how thim knock-out drops works,
"Ya!" said the alderman unsuspectingly, "gifing such a
forgetfulness on such easy things as dongolas."
"Sure! You tell Dugan what dongolas is, Grevemeyer," said Toole
Grevemeyer looked at his glass thoughtfully. His mind worked
slowly always, but he saw that it would not do for him to have
knock-out drops so soon after Toole.
"Ach!" he exclaimed angrily. "You are insulting to me mit such
questions Toole. So much will I tell you--never ask Germans what
is dongolas. It is not for Germans to talk about such things.
Casey scratched his head thoughtfully.
"Dongolas?" he repeated. "I have heard th' word, Grevemeyer.
Wait a bit! 'Tis something about shoes. Sure! I remimber, now!
'Twas dongola shoes wan of me kids had, last winter, an' no good
they were, too. Dongolas is shoes, Grevemeyer--laced shoes --
dongolas is laced shoes."
The big mayor leaned his head far back and laughed long and
loud. He pounded on the bar with his fist, and slapped Toole on
"Laced shoes!" he cried, wiping his eyes, and then he became
suddenly serious. "'Twould not be shoes, Casey," he said gravely.
"Thim dongolas was ricomminded by th' landscape-gardener from New
Yorrk. 'Twould not be sinsible t' ricommind us put a pair of
laced shoes in th' park lake fer th' kids t' ride on."
"'Twould not seem so," said Toole, shaking his head wisely. "I
wisht me mind was like it always is. 'Tis a pity--"
"Stop!" cried Casey. "I have it! Thim was kid shoes. Thim
dongolas was kid shoes."
"So said, Casey," said Duo'an "For th' kid."
"No," said Casey, "of th' kid."
"Sure!" said Gravemeyer. So it is--the shoes of the child."
"Right fer ye!" exclaimed Casey. "Th' kid shoes of th' kid.
'Twas kid leather they were made out of, Dugan. Th' dongola is
some fancy kind of a goat. Like box-calf is th' skin of th' calf
of th' box-cow. Th' dongola is some foreign kind of a goat,
"Ho, ho-o-o!" cried Toole, suddenly, knocking on his forehead
with the knuckles of his fist. The three men turned their eyes
upon him and stared.
"What ails ye now, Mike?" asked Dugan, disgustedly.
"Ho-o-o!" he cried again, slapping himself on the top of his
head. "Me mind is comm' back t' me, Dugan! Th' effects of th'
knock-out drops is wearin' off! I recall now that th' dongola is
some fancy kind of a goat. 'Twill all come back t' me soon.
"Go along wid ye!" exclaimed Dugan. "Would ye be puttin' a goat
in th' lake for th' kids t' ride on?"
"Sure!" said Toole enthusiastically. "Sure I would, Dugan. Not
th' common goat I wouldn't. But dongola goats I would. Have ye
heard of dongola water goats, Casey? Was thim dongola goat skin
shoes warranted t' be water-proof?"
Casey wrinkled his brow.
"'Tis like they was, Toole," he said doubtfully. "'Tis like
they was warranted t' be, but they wasn't."
"Sure!" cried Toole joyously. " 'Tis water-proof th' skin of
th' dongola water goats is, like th' skin of th' duck. An' swim?
A duck isn't in it wid a water goat. I remimber seein' thim in
ould Ireland whin I was a bye, Dugan, swimmin in th' lake of
Killarney. Ah, 'twas a purty picture."
"I seem t' remimber thim mesilf," he said. "Not clear, but a
"Sure ye do!" cried Toole. "Many's the time I have rode across
th' lake on th' back of a dongola. Me own father, who was a big
man in th' ould country, used t' keep a pair of thim for us
childer. 'Twas himself fetched thim from Donnegal, Dugan. 'Twas
from Donnegal they got th' name of thim, an' 'twas th' name ye
give thim that misled me. Donnegoras was what we called thim in
th' ould counry--donnegoras from Donnegal. I remimber th' two of
thim I had whin I was a kid, Dugan--wan was a Nanny, an' wan was
a Billy, an'--"
"Go on home, Mike," said Dugan. "Go on home an' sleep it off!"
and the little alderman from the Fourth Ward picked up his hat
and coat, and obeyed his orders.
Instituting a new public park and seeing that in every purchase
and every contract there is a rake-off for the ring is a big job,
and between this and the fight against the rapidly increasing
strength of the reform party, Mayor Dugan had his hands more than
full. He had no time to think of dongolas, and he did not want to
think of them--Toole was the committee on dongolas, and it was
his duty to think of them, and to worry about them, if any worry
was necessary. But Toole did not worry. He sat down and wrote a
letter to his cousin Dennis, official keeper of the zoo in
Idlewild Park at Franklin, Iowa.
"Dear Dennis," he wrote. "Have you any dongola goats in your
menagery for I want two right away good strong ones answer right
away your affectionate cousin alderman Michael Toole."
"Ps monny no object."
When Dennis Toole received this letter he walked through his
zoo and considered his animals thoughtfully. The shop-worn brown
bear would not do to fill cousin Mike's order; neither would the
weather-worn red deer nor the family of variegated tame rabbits.
The zoo of Idlewild Park at Franklin was woefully short of
dongola goats--in fact, to any but the most imaginative and
easily pleased child, it was lacking in nearly every thing that
makes a zoo a congress of the world's most rare and thrilling
creatures. After all, the nearest thing to a goat was a goat, and
goats were plenty in Franklin. Dennis felt an irresistible
longing to aid Mike--the longing that comes to any healthy man
when a request is accompanied by the legend "Money no object." He
wrote that evening to Mike.
"Dear Mike," he wrote. "I've got two good strong dongola goats
I can let you have cheap. I'm overstocked with dongolas to-day. I
want to get rid of two. Zoo is getting too crowded with all kinds
of animals and I don't need so many dongola goats. I will sell
you two for fifty dollars. Apiece. What do you want them for?
Your affectionate cousin, Dennis Toole, Zoo keeper. PS. Crates
"Casey," said Mike to his friend the saloon keeper when he
received this communication, "'tis just as I told ye--dongolas is
goats. I have been corrispondin' with wan of th' celibrated
animal men regardin' th' dongola water goat, an' I have me eye on
two of thim this very minute. But 'twill be ixpinsive, Casey,
mighty ixpinsive. Th' dongola water goat is a rare birrd, Casey.
They have become extinct in th' lakes of Ireland, an' what few of
thim is left in th' worrld is held at outrajeous prices. In th'
letter I have from th' animal man, Casey, he wants two hundred
dollars apiece for each dongola water goat, an' 'twill be no easy
thing for him t' git thim."
"Hasn't he thim in his shop, Mike?" asked Casey.
"He has not, Casey," said the little alderman. "He has no place
for thim. Cages he has, an' globes for goldfish, an' birrd cages,
but th' size of th' shop l'aves no room for an aquarium, Casey.
He has no tank for the preservation of water goats.
Hippopotamuses an' alligators an' crocodiles an' dongola water
goats an' sea lions he does not keep in stock, Casey, but sinds
out an' catches thim whin ordered. He writes that his agints has
their eyes on two fine dongolas, an' he has tiligraphed thim t'
"Are they near by, Mike?" asked Casey, much interested.
"Naw," said Toole. "'Twill be some time till I git thim. Th'
last he heard of thim they were swimmin' in th' Lake of Geneva."
"Is it far, th' lake?" asked Casey.
"I disremimber how far," said Toole. "'Tis in Africa or Asia,
or mebby 'tis in Constantinople. Wan of thim countries it is,
But to his cousin Dennis he wrote:
"Dear Dennis--I will take them two dongolas. Crate them good
and solid. Do not send them till I tell you. Send the bill to me.
Your affectionate cousin alderman Michael Toole. Ps Make bill for
two hundred dollars a piece. Business is business. This is
between us two. M. T."
A Keeper of the Water Goats had been selected with the utmost
care, combining in the choice practical politics with a sense of
fitness. Timothy Fagan was used to animals--for years he had
driven a dumpcart. He was used to children--he had ten or eleven
of his own. And he controlled several votes in the Fourth Ward.
His elevation from the dump-cart of the street cleaning
department to the high office of Keeper of the Water Goats was
one that Dugan believed would give general satisfaction.
When the goats arrived in Jeffersonville the two heavy crates
were hauled to Alderman Toole's back yard to await the opening of
the park, and there Mayor Dugan and Goat Keeper Fagan came to
inspect them. Alderman Toole led the way to them with pride, and
Mayor Dugan's creased brow almost uncreased as he bent down and
peered between the bars of the crates. They were fine goats.
Perhaps they looked somewhat more dejected than a goat usually
looks--more dirty and down at the heels than a goat often looks--
but they were undoubtedly goats. As specimens of ordinary Irish
goats they might not have passed muster with a careful buyer, but
no doubt they were excellent examples of the dongola.
"Ye have done good, Mike," said the mayor. "Ye have done good!
But ain't they mebby a bit off their feed--or something?"
"Off their feed!" said Toole. "An' who wouldn't be, poor
things? Mind ye, Dugan, thim is not common goats--thim is
dongolas--an' used to bein' in th' wather con-continuous from
mornin' till night. 'Tis sufferin' for a swim they be, poor
animals. Wance let thim git in th' lake an' ye will see th'
difference, Dugan. 'Twill make all th' difference in th' worrld
t' thim. 'Tis dyin' for a swim they are."
"Sure!" said the Keeper of the Water Goats. "Ye have done good,
Mike," said the mayor again. "Thim dongolas will be a big
surprise for th' people."
They were. They surprised the Keeper of the Goats first of all.
The day before the park was to be opened to the public the goats
were taken to the park and turned over to their official keeper.
At eleven o'clock that morning Alderman Toole was leaning
against Casey's bar, confidentially pouring into his ear the
story of how the dongolas had given their captors a world of
trouble, swimming violently to the far reaches of Lake Geneva and
hiding among the bulrushes and reeds, when the swinging door of
the saloon was banged open and Tim Fagan rushed in. He was mad.
He was very mad, but he was a great deal wetter than mad. He
looked as if he had been soaked in water over night, and not
wrung out in the morning.
"Mike!" he whispered hoarsely, grasping the little alderman by
the arm. "I want ye! I want ye down at th' park."
A chill of fear passed over Alderman Toole. He turned his face
to Fagan and laid his hand on his shoulder.
"Tim," he demanded, "has annything happened t' th' dongolas?"
"Is annything happened t' th' dongolas!" exclaimed Fagan
sarcastically. "Is annything wrong with thim water goats? Oh, no,
Toole! Nawthin' has gone wrong with thim! Only they won't go into
th' wather, Mike! Is annything gone wrong with thim, did ye say?
Nawthin'! They be in good health, but they are not crazy t' be
swimmin'. Th' way they do not hanker t' dash into th' water is
marvellous, Mike. No water for thim!"
"Hist!" said Toole uneasily, glancing around to see that no one
but Casey was in hearing. "Mebby ye have not started thim right,
"Mebby not," said Fagan angrily. "Mebby I do not know how t'
start th' water goat, Toole! Mebby there is one way unbeknownst
t' me. If so, I have not tried it. But th' forty-sivin other ways
I have tried, an' th' goats will not swim. I have started thim
backwards an' I have started thim frontwards, an' I have took
thim in by th' horns an' give thim lessons t' swim, an' they will
not swim! I have done me duty by thim, Mike, an' I have wrastled
with thim, an' rolled in th' lake with thim. Was it t' be
swimmin' teacher t' water goats ye got me this job for?"
"Hist!" said Toole again. "Not so loud, Tim! Ye haven't told
Dugan have ye?"
"I have not!" said Tim, with anger. "I have not told annybody
annything excipt thim goats an' what I told thim is not dacint
hearin'. I have conversed with thim in strong language, an' it
done no good. No swimmin' for thim! Come on down an' have a chat
with thim yersilf, Toole. Come on down an' argue with thim, an
persuade thim with th' soft sound of yer voice t' swim. Come on
down an' git thim water goats used t' th' water."
"Ye don't understand th' water goat, Tim," said Toole in gentle
reproof. "I will show ye how t' handle him," and he went out,
followed by the wet Keeper of the Water Goats.
The two water goats stood at the side of the lake, wet and
mournful, tied to two strong stakes. They looked weary and meek,
for they had had a hard morning, but as soon as they saw Tim
Fagan they brightened up. They arose simultaneously on their hind
legs and their eyes glittered with deadly hatred. They strained
at their ropes, and then, suddenly, panic-stricken, they turned
and ran, bringing up at the ends of their ropes with a shock that
bent the stout stakes to which they were fastened. They stood
still and cowered, trembling.
"Lay hold!" commanded Toole. "Lay hold of a horn of th' brute
till I show ye how t' make him swim."
Through the fresh gravel of the beach the four feet of the
reluctant goat ploughed deep furrows. It shook its head from side
to side, but Toole and Fagan held it fast, and into the water it
"Now!" cried Alderman Toole. "Git behind an' push, Tim! Wan!
Two! Three! Push!"
Alderman Toole released his hold and Keeper of the Water Goats
Fagan pushed. Then they tried the other goat. It was easier to
try the other water goat than to waste time hunting up the one
they had just tried, for it had gone away. As soon as Alderman
Toole let it go, it went. It seemed to want to get to the other
end of the park as soon as possible, but it did not take the
short cut across the lake--it went around. But it did not mind
travel--it went to the farthest part of the park, and it would
have gone farther if it could. So Alderman Toole and Keeper Fagan
tried the other water goat. That one went straight to the other
end of the park. It swerved from a straight line but once, and
that was when it shied at a pail of water that was in the way. It
did not seem to like water.
In the Franklin Zoo Dennis Toole had just removed the lid of
his tin lunch-pail when the telegraph boy handed him the yellow
envelope. He turned it over and over, studying its exterior,
while the boy went to look at the shop-worn brown bear. The zoo
keeper decided that there was no way to find out what was inside
of the envelope but to open it. He was ready for the worst. He
wondered, unthinkingly, which one of his forty or more cousins
was dead, and opened the envelope.
"Dennis Toole, Franklin Zoo," he read, "Dongolas won't swim.
How do you make them swim? Telegraph at once. Michael Toole."
He laid the telegram across his knees and looked at it as if it
was some strange communication from another sphere. He pushed his
hat to one side of his head and scratched the tuft of red hair
"'Dongolas won't swim!"' he repeated slowly. "An' how do I make
thim swim? I wonder does Cousin Mike take th' goat t' be a fish,
or what? I wonder does he take swimmin' to be wan of th'
accomplishments of th' goat?" He shook his head in puzzlement,
and frowned at the telegram. "Would he be havin' a goat regatta,
I wonder, or was he expectin' th' goat t' be a web-footed animal?
'Won't swim!' he repeated angrily. 'Won't swim!' An' what is it
to me if they won't swim? Nayther would I swim if I was a goat.
'Tis none of me affair if they will not swim. There was nawthin'
said about 'swimmin' goats.' Goats I can give him, an' dongola
goats I can give him, an jumpin' goats, an' climbin' goats, an'
walkin' goats, but 'tis not in me line t'furnish submarine goats.
No, nor goats t' fly up in th' air! Would anny one," he said with
exasperation, "would anny one that got a plain order for goats
ixpict t' have t' furnish goats that would hop up off th' earth
an' make a balloon ascension? 'Tis no fault of Dennis Toole's
thim goats won't swim. What will Mike be telegraphin' me nixt, I
wonder? 'Dear Dennis: Th' goats won't lay eggs. How do ye make
thim?' Bye, have ye a piece of paper t' write an answer t' me
cousin Mike on?"
The Keeper of the Water Goats and Alderman Toole were sitting
on a rustic bench looking sadly at the water goats when the
Jeffersonville telegraph messenger brought them Dennis Toole's
answer. Alderman Toole grasped the envelope eagerly and tore it
open, and Fagan leaned over his shoulder as he read it:
"Michael Toole, Alderman, Jeffersonville," they read. "Put them
in the water and see if they will swim. Dennis Toole."
"Put thim in th' wather!" exclaimed Alderman Toole angrily.
"Why don't ye put thim in th' wather, Fagan? Why did ye not think
t' put thim in th' wather?" He looked down at his soaking
clothes, and his anger increased. "Why have ye been tryin' t'
make thim dongolas swim on land, Fagan?" he asked sarcastically.
"Or have ye been throwin' thim up in th' air t' see thim swim?
Why don't ye put thim in th' wather? Why don't ye follow th'
instructions of th' expert dongola water goat man an' put thim in
th' wather if ye want thim t' swim?"
Fagan looked at the angry alderman. He looked at the dripping
"So I did, Mike," he said seriously. "We both of us did."
"An' did we!" cried Alderman Toole in mock surprise. "Is it
possible we thought t' put thim in th' wather whin we wanted thim
t' swim? It was in me mind that we tied thim to a tree an' played
ring-around-a-rosy with thim t' induce thim t' swim! Where's a
pencil? Where's a piece of paper?" he cried.
He jerked them from the hand of the messenger boy. The
afternoon was half worn away. Every minute was precious. He wrote
hastily and handed the message to the messenger boy.
"Fagan," he said, as the boy disappeared down the path at a
run, "raise up yer spirits an come an' give th' water goats some
more instructions in th' ginteel art of swimmin' in th' wather."
Fagan sighed and arose. He walked toward the dejected water
goats, and, taking the nearest one by the horns yanked it toward
the lake. The goat was too weak to do more than hold back feebly
and bleat its disapproval of another bath. The more lessons in
swimming it received the less it seemed to like to swim. It had
developed a positive hatred of swimming.
Dennis Toole received the second telegram with a savage grin.
He had expected it. He opened it with malicious slowness.
"Dennis Toole, Franklin Zoo," he read. "Where do you think I
put them to make them swim? They won't swim in the lake. It won't
do no good to us for them to swim on dry land. No fooling, now,
how do you make them dongolas swim? Answer quick.
He did not have to study out his reply, for he had been
considering it ever since he had sent the other telegram. He took
a blank from the boy and wrote the answer. The sun was setting
when the Jeffersonville messenger delivered it to Alderman Toole.
"Mike Toole, Jeffersonville," it said. "Quit fooling, yourself.
Don't you know young dongolas are always water-shy at first? Tie
them in the lake and let them soak, and they will learn to swim
fast enough. If I didn't know any more about dongolas than you do
I would keep clear of them. Dennis Toole."
"Listen to that now," said Alderman Toole, a smile spreading
over his face. "An' who ever said I knew annything about water
goats, anny how? Th' natural history of th' water goat is not wan
of the things usually considered part of th' iducation of th'
alderman from th' Fourth Ward, Fagan, but 'tis surprised I am
that ye did not know th' goat is like th' soup bean, an' has t'
be soaked before usin'. Th' Keeper of th' Water Goat should know
th' habits of th' animal, Fagan. Why did ye not put thim in to
soak in th' first place? I am surprised at ye!"
"It escaped me mind," said Fagan. "I was thinkin' these was
broke t' swimmin' an' did not need t' be soaked. I wonder how
long they should be soaked, Mike?"
"'Twill do no harrm t' soak thim over night, anny how," said
Toole. "Over night is th' usual soak given t' th' soup-bean an'
th' salt mackerel, t' say nawthin' of th' codfish an' others of
th' water-goat family. Let th' water goats soak over night,
Fagan, an by mornin' they will be ready t' swim like a trout. We
will anchor thim in th' lake, Fagan--an' we will say nawthin' t'
Dugan. 'Twould be a blow t' Dugan was he t' learn th' dongolas
provided fer th' park was young an' wather-shy."
They anchored the water goats firmly in the lake, and left them
there to overcome their shyness, which seemed, as Fagan and Toole
left them, to be as great as ever. The goats gazed sadly, and
bleated longingly, after the two men as they disappeared in the
dusk, and when the men had passed entirely out of sight, the
goats looked at each other and complained bitterly.
Alderman Toole thoughtfully changed his wet clothes for dry
ones before he went to Casey's that evening, for he thought Dugan
might be there, and he was. He was there when Toole arrived, and
his brow was black. He had had a bad day of it. Everything had
gone wrong with him and his affairs. A large lump of his
adherents had sloughed off from his party and had affiliated with
his opponents, and the evening opposition paper had come out with
a red-hot article condemning the administration for reckless
extravagance. It had especially condemned Dugan for burdening the
city with new bonds to create an unneeded park, and the whole
thing had ended with a screech of ironic laughter over the--so
the editor called it--fitting capstone of the whole business, the
purchase of two dongola goats at perfectly extravagant prices.
"Mike," said the big mayor severely, when the little alderman
had offered his greetings, "there is the divil an' all t' pay
about thim dongolas. Th' News is full of thim. 'Twill be th' ind
of us all if they do not pan out well. Have ye tried thim in th'
"Sure!" exclaimed the little alderman with a heartiness he did
not feel. "What has me an' Fagan been doin' all day but tryin'
thim? Have no fear of th' wather goats, Dugan."
"Do they swim well, Mike?" asked the big mayor kindly, but with
a weary heaviness he did not try to conceal.
"Swim!" exclaimed Toole. "Did ye say swim, Dugan? Swim is no
name for th' way they rip thro' the wather! 'Twas marvellous t'
see thim. Ah, thim dongolas is wonderful animals! Do ye think we
could persuade thim t' come out whin we wanted t' come home? Not
thim, Dugan! 'Twas all me an' Fagan could do t' pull thim out by
main force, an' th' minute we let go of thim, back they wint into
th' wather. 'Twas pitiful t' hear th' way they bleated t' be let
back into th' wather agin, Dugan, so we let thim stay in for th'
"Ye did not let thim loose in th' lake, Mike?" exclaimed the
big mayor. "Ye did not let thim be so they could git away?"
"No," said Toole. "No! They'll not git away, Dugan. We anchored
"Ye done good, Mike," said the big mayor.
The next morning Keeper of the Water Goats Fagan was down
sufficiently early to drag the bodies of the goats out of the
lake long before even the first citizen was admitted to the park.
Alone, and hastily he hid them in the little tool house, and
locked the door on them. Then he went to find Alderman Toole. He
found him in the mayor's office, and beckoned him to one side. In
hot, quick accents he told him the untimely fate of the dongola
water goats, and the mayor--with an eye for everything on that
important day--saw the red face of Alderman Toole grow longer and
redder; saw the look of pain and horror that overspread it. A
chilling fear gripped his own heart.
"Mike," he said. "What's th' matter with th' dongolas?"
It was Fagan who spoke, while the little alderman from the
Fourth Ward stood bereft of speech in this awful moment.
"Dugan," he said, "I have not had much ixperience with th'
dongola wather goat, an' th' ways an' habits of thim is strange
t' me, but if I was t' say what I think, I would say they was
"Over-soaked, Fagan?" said the mayor crossly. "Talk sense, will
"Sure!" said Fagan. "An' over-soaked is what I say. Thim water
goats has all th' looks of bein' soaked too long. I would not say
positive, Yer Honour, but that is th' looks of thim. If me own
mother was t' ask me I would say th' same, Dugan. 'Soakin' too
long done it,' is what I would say."
"You are a fool, Fagan!" exclaimed the big mayor.
"Well," said Fagan mildly, "I have not had much ixperience in
soakin' dongolas, if ye mean that, Dugan. I do not set up t' be
an expert dongola soaker. I do not know th' rules t' go by. Some
may like thim soaked long an' some may like thim soaked not so
long, but if I was to say, I would say thim two dongolas at th'
park has been soaked a dang sight too long. Th' swim has been
soaked clean out of thim."
"Are they sick?" asked the big mayor. "What is th' matter with
"They do look sick," agreed Fagan, breaking the bad news
gently. "I should say they look mighty sick, Dugan. If they
looked anny sicker, I would be afther lookin' for a place t' bury
thim in. An' I am lookin' for th' place now."
As the truth dawned on the mind of the big mayor, he lost his
firm look and sank into a chair. This was the last brick pulled
from under his structure of hopes. His head sank upon his breast
and for many minutes he was silent, while his aides stood abashed
and ill at ease. At last he raised his head and stared at Toole,
more in sorrow than in resentfulness.
"Mike," he said, "Mike Toole! What in th' worrld made ye soak
"Dugan," pleaded Toole, laying his hand on the big mayor's arm.
"Dugan, old man, don't look at me that way. There was nawthin'
else t' do but soak thim dongolas. Many's th' time I have seen me
old father soakin' th' young dongolas t' limber thim up for
swimmin'. 'If iver ye have to do with dongolas, Mike,' he used t'
say t' me, 'soak thim well firrst.' So I soaked thim, an' 'tis
none of me fault, nor Fagan's either, that they soaked full o'
wather. First-class dongolas is wather-proof, as iveryone knows,
Dugan, an' how was we t' know thim two was not? How was me an'
Fagan t' know their skins would soak in wather like a pillow
case? Small blame to us, Dugan ."
The big mayor took his head between his hands and stared
moodily at the floor.
"Go awn away!" he said after a while. "Ye have done for me an'
th' byes, Toole. Ye have soaked us out of office, wan an' all of
us. I want t' be alone. It is all over with us. Go awn away."
Toole and the Keeper of the Water Goats stole silently from the
room and out into the street. Fagan was the first to speak.
"How was we t' know thim dongolas would soak in wather that
way, Toole?" he said defensively. "How was we t' know they was
not th' wather-proof kind of dongolas?"
The little alderman from the Fourth Ward walked silently by the
Keeper's side. His head was downcast and his hands were clasped
beneath the tails of his coat. Suddenly he looked Fagan full in
"'Twas our fault, Fagan," he said. "'Twas all our fault. If we
didn't know thim dongolas was wather-proof we should have
varnished thim before we put thim in th' lake t' soak. I don't
blame you, Fagan, for ye did not know anny better, but I blame
mesilf. For I call t' mind now that me father always varnished
th' dongolas before he soaked thim overnight. 'Take no chances,
Mike,' he used t' say t' me, 'always varnish thim firrst. Some of
thim is rubbery an' will not soak up wather, but some is spongy,
an' 'tis best t' varnish one an' all of thim."'
"Think of that now!" exclaimed Fagan with admiration. "Sure,
but this natural history is a wonderful science, Toole! To think
that thim animals was th' spongyhided dongola water goats of
foreign lands, an' used t' bein' varnished before each an' every
bath! An' t' me they looked no different from th' goats of me
byehood! I was never cut out for a goat keeper, Mike. An' me job
on th' dump-cart is gone, too. 'Twill be hard times for Fagan."
"'Twill be hard times for Toole, too," said the little
alderman, and they walked on without speaking until Fagan reached
"Well, anny how," he said with cheerful philosophy, "'tis
better t' be us than to be thim dongola water goats--dead or
alive. 'Tis not too often I take a bath, Mike, but if I was wan
of thim spongy-hided dongolas an' had t' be varnished each time I
got in me bath tub, I would stop bathin' for good an' all."
He looked toward the house.
"I'll not worry," he said. "Maggie will be sad t' hear th' job
is gone, but she would have took it harder t' know her Tim was
wastin' his time varnishin' th' slab side of a spongy goat."
MR. BILLINGS'S POCKETS
On the sixteenth of June Mr. Rollin Billings entered his home
at Westcote very much later than usual, and stealing upstairs,
like a thief in the night, he undressed and dropped into bed. In
two minutes he was asleep, and it was no wonder, for by that time
it was five minutes after three in the morning, and Mr.
Billings's usual bedtime was ten o'clock. Even when he was
delayed at his office he made it an invariable rule to catch the
nine o'clock train home.
When Mrs. Billings awoke the next--or, rather, that same--
morning, she gazed a minute at the thin, innocent face of her
husband, and was in the satisfied frame of mind that takes an
unexpected train delay as a legitimate excuse, when she happened
to cast her eyes upon Mr. Billings's coat, which was thrown
carelessly over the foot of the bed. Protruding from one of the
side pockets was a patent nursing-bottle, half full of milk.
Instantly Mrs. Billings was out of bed and searching Mr.
Billings's other pockets. To her horror her search was fruitful.
In a vest pocket she found three false curls, or puffs of hair,
such as ladies are wearing to-day to increase the abundance of
their own, and these curls were of a rich brownish red. Finally,
when she dived into his trousers pocket, she found twelve acorns
carefully wrapped in a lady's handkerchief, with the initials
"T. M. C." embroidered in one corner.
All these Mrs. Billings hid carefully in her upper bureau
drawer and proceeded to dress. When at length she awakened Mr.
Billings, he yawned, stretched, and then, realizing that
getting-up time had arrived, hopped briskly out of bed.
"You got in late last night," said Mrs. Billings pleasantly.
If she had expected Mr. Billings to cringe and cower she was
mistaken. He continued to dress, quite in his usual manner, as if
he had a clear conscience.
"Indeed I did, Mary," he said. "It was three when I entered the
house, for the clock was just striking."
"Something must have delayed you," suggested Mrs. Billings.
"Otherwise, dear," said Mr. Billings, "I should have been home
"Probably," said Mrs. Billings, suddenly assuming her most
sarcastic tone, as she reached into her bureau drawer and drew
out the patent nursing-bottle, "this had something to do with
your being delayed!"
Mr. Billings looked at the nursing-bottle, and then he drew out
his watch and looked at that.
"My dear," he said, "you are right. It did. But I now have just
time to gulp down my coffee and catch my train. To-night, when I
return from town, I will tell you the most remarkable story of
that nursing-bottle, and how it happened to be in my pocket, and
in the mean time I beg you--I most sincerely beg you--to feel no
With this he hurried out of the room, and a few moments later
his wife saw him running for his train.
All day Mrs. Billings was prey to the most disturbing thoughts,
and as soon as dinner was finished that evening she led the way
into the library.
"Now, Rollin?" she said, and without hesitation Mr. Billings
I. THE PATENT NURSING-BOTTLE
You have (he said), I know, met Lemuel, the coloured elevator
boy in our office building, and you know what a pleasant,
accommodating lad he is. He is the sort of boy for whom one would
gladly do a favour, for he is always so willing to do favours for
others, but I was thinking nothing of this when I stepped from my
office at exactly five o'clock yesterday evening. I was thinking
of nothing but getting home to dinner as soon as possible, and
was just stepping into the elevator when Lemuel laid his hand
gently on my arm.
"I beg yo' pahdon, Mistah Billings," he said politely, "but
would yo' do me a favour?"
"Certainly, Lemuel," I said; "how much can I lend you?"
"'Tain't that, sah," he said. "I wish t' have a word or two in
private with yo'. Would yo' mind steppin' back into yo' office
until I git these folks out of th' buildin', so's I can speak to
I knew I had still half an hour before my six-two train, and I
was not unwilling to do Lemuel a favour, so I went back to my
office as he desired, and waited there until he appeared, which
was not until he had taken all the tenants down in his elevator.
Then he opened the door and came in. With him was the young man I
had often seen in the office next to mine, as I passed, and a
young woman on whom I had never set my eyes before. No sooner had
they opened the door than the young man began to speak, and
Lemuel stood unobtrusively to one side.
"Mr. Billings," said the young man, "you may think it strange
that I should come to you in this way when you and I are hardly
acquaintances, but I have often observed you passing my door, and
have noted your kind-looking face, and the moment I found this
trouble upon me I instantly thought of you as the one man who
would be likely to help me out of my difficulty.
While he said this I had time to study his face, and also to
glance at the young woman, and I saw that he must, indeed, be in
great trouble. I also saw that the young woman was pretty and
modest and that she, also, was in great distress. I at once
agreed to help him, provided I should not be made to miss the
six-thirty train, for I saw I was already too late for the
"Good!" he cried. "For several years Madge--who is this young
lady--and I have been in love, and we wish to be married this
evening, but her father and my father are waiting at the foot of
the elevator at this minute, and they have been waiting there all
day. There is no other way for us to leave the building, for the
foot of the stairs is also the foot of the elevator, and, in
fact, when I last peeped, Madge's father was sitting on the
bottom step. It is now exactly fifteen minutes of six, and at six
o'clock they mean to come up and tear Madge and me away, and have
"To--" I began.
"To each other," said the young man with emotion.
"But I thought that was what you wanted?" I exclaimed.
"Not at all! Not at all!" said the young man, and the young
woman added her voice in protest, too. "I am the head of the
Statistical Department of the Society for the Obtaining of a
Uniform National Divorce Law, and the work in that department has
convinced me beyond a doubt that forced marriages always end
unhappily. In eighty-seven thousand six hundred and four cases of
forced marriages that I have tabulated I have found that eighty-
seven thousand six hundred and three have been unhappy. In the
face of such statistics Madge and I dare not allow ourselves to
be married against our wills. We insist on marrying voluntarily."
"That could be easily arranged," I ventured to say, in view of
the fact that both your fathers wish you to be married."
"Not at all," said Madge, with more independence than I had
thought her capable of; "because my father and Henry's father are
gentlemen of the old school. I would not say anything against
either father, for in ordinary affairs I they are two most suave
and charming old gentlemen, but in this they hold to the old-
school idea that children should allow their parents to select
their life-partners, and they insist that Henry and I allow
ourselves to be forced to marry each other. And that, in spite of
the statistics Henry has shown them. Our whole happiness depends
on our getting out of this building before they can come up and
get us. That is why we appeal to you."
"If you still hesitate, after what Madge has said," said Henry,
pulling a large roll of paper out of his pocket, "here are the
"Very well," I said, "I will help you, if I can do so and not
miss the six-thirty train. What is your plan?"
"It is very simple," said Henry. "Our fathers are both quite
near-sighted, and as six o'clock draws near they will naturally
become greatly excited and nervous, and, therefore, less
observant of small things. I have brought with me some burnt cork
with which I will blacken my face, and I will change clothes with
Lemuel, and, in the one moment necessary to escape, my father
will not recognize me. Lemuel, on the other hand, will whiten his
face with some powder that Madge has brought, and will wear my
clothes, and in the excitement my father will seize him instead
"Excellent," I said, "but what part do I play in this?"
"This part," said Henry, "you will wear, over your street
clothes, a gown that Madge has brought in her suit-case and a hat
that she has also brought, both of which her father will easily
recognize, while Madge will redden her face with rouge, muss her
hair, don a torn, calico dress, and with a scrub-rag and a mop in
her hands easily pass for a scrub-woman.
"And then?" I asked.
"Then you and Lemuel will steal cautiously down the stairs, as
if you were Madge and I seeking to escape, while Madge and I, as
Lemuel and the scrub-woman, will go down by the elevator. My
father and Madge's father will seize you and Lemuel--"
"And I shall appear like a fool when they discover I am a
respectable business man rigged up in woman's clothes," I said.
"Not at all," said Madge, "for Henry and I have thought of
that. You must play your part until you see that henry and I have
escaped from the elevator and have left the building, and that is
all. I have had the forethought to prepare an alibi for you. As
soon as you see that Henry and I are safe outside the building,
you must become very indignant, and insist that you are a
respectable married woman, and in proof you must hand my father
the contents of this package. He will be convinced immediately
and let you go, and then Lemuel can run you up to your office and
you can take off my dress and hat and catch the six-thirty train
without trouble." She then handed me a small parcel, which I
slipped into my coat pocket.
When this had been agreed upon she and Henry left the office
and I took the hat and dress from the suit-case and put them on,
while Lemuel put on Henry's suit and whitened his face. This took
but a few minutes, and we went into the hall and found Henry and
Madge already waiting for us. Henry was blackened into a good
likeness of Lemuel, and Madge was quite a mussy scrub-woman. They
immediately entered the elevator and began to descend slowly,
while Lemuel and I crept down the stairs.
Lemuel and I kept as nearly as possible opposite the elevator,
so that we might arrive at the foot of the stairs but a moment
before Madge and Henry, and we could hear the two fathers
shuffling on the street floor, when suddenly, as we reached the
third floor, we heard a whisper from Henry in the elevator. The
elevator had stuck fast between the third and fourth floors. As
with one mind, Lemuel and I seated ourselves on a step and waited
until Henry should get the elevator running again and could
proceed to the street floor.
For a while we could hear no noise but the grating of metal on
metal as Henry worked with the starting lever of the elevator,
and then we heard the two voices of the fathers.
"It is a ruse," said one father. "They are pretending the
elevator is stuck, and when we grow impatient and start up the
stairs they will come down with a rush and escape us."
"But we are not so silly as that," said the other father. "We
will stay right here and wait until they come down."
At that Lemuel and I settled ourselves more comfortably, for
there was nothing else to do. I cursed inwardly as I felt the
minutes slip by and knew that half-past six had come and gone,
but I was sure you would not like to have me desert those two
poor lovers who were fighting to ward off the statistics, so I
sat still and silent. So did Lemuel.
I do not know how long I sat there, for it was already dark in
the narrow stairway, but it must have been a long time. I drowsed
off, and I was finally awakened by Lemuel tugging at my sleeve,
and I knew that Henry had managed to start the elevator again.
Lemuel and I hastened our steps, and just as the elevator was
coming into sight below the second floor we were seen by the two
fathers. For an instant they hesitated, and then they seized us.
At the same time the elevator door opened and Henry and Madge
came out, and the two fathers hardly glanced at them as they went
out of the door into the street.
As soon as I saw that they were safe I feigned great
indignation, and so did Lemuel.
"Unhand me, sir!" I cried. "Who do you think I am? I am a
respectable married lady, leaving the building with her husband.
Instead of doing so, however, the father that had me by the arm
drew me nearer to the hall light. As he did so he stared closely
at my face.
"Morgan," he said to the other father, "this is not my
daughter. My daughter did not have a moustache."
"Indeed, I am not your daughter," I said; "I am a respectable
married lady, and here is the proof."
With that I reached for the package Madge had given me, but it
was in my coat-pocket, underneath the dress I had on, and it was
only with great difficulty and by raising one side of the skirt
that I was able to get it. I unwrapped it and showed it to the
father that had me by the arm. It was the patent nursing-bottle.
When Mr. Billings had finished his relation his wife sat for a
moment in silence. Then she said:
"And he let you go?"
"Yes, of course," said Mr. Billings; "he could not hold me
after such proof as that, and Lemuel ran me up to my office,
where I changed my hat and took off the dress. I knew it was
late, and I did not know what train I could catch, but I made
haste, and, on the way down in the elevator, I felt in my pocket
to see if I had my commutation ticket, when my hand struck the
patent nursing-bottle. My first impulse was to drop it in the
car, but on second thought I decided to keep it, for I knew that
when you saw it and heard the story you would understand
perfectly why I was detained last night."
"Yes?" said Mrs. Billings questioningly. "But, my dear, all
that does not account for these."
As she said that she drew from her workbasket the three
"Oh, those!" said Mr. Billings, after a momentary hesitation.
"I was about to tell you about those."
"Do so!" said Mrs. Billings coldly. "I am listening."
II. THE THREE AUBURN-RED CURLS
When I went down in the elevator (said Mr. Billings) with the
nursing-bottle in my pocket, I had no thought but to get to the
train as soon as possible, for I saw by the clock in my office
that I had just time to catch the eleven-nine if I should not be
delayed. Therefore, as soon as I was outside the building I
started to run, but when I reached the corner and was just about
to step on a passing street-car a hand was laid on my arm, and I
turned to see who was seeking to detain me. It was a woman in the
most pitiable rags, and on her arm she carried a baby so thin and
pale that I could scarcely believe it lived.
One glance at the child showed me that it was on the verge of
death by starvation, and this was confirmed by the moans of the
mother, who begged me for humanity's sake to give her money with
which to provide food for the child, even though I let her,
herself, starve. You know, my dear, you never allow me to give
money to street beggars, and I remembered this, but at the same
time I remembered the patent nursing-bottle I still carried in my
Without hesitation I drew the patent nursing-bottle from my
pocket and told the mother to allow the infant to have a
sufficient quantity of milk it contained to sustain the child's
life until she could procure other alms or other aid. With a cry
of joy the mother took the nursing-bottle and pressed it to the
poor baby's lips, and it was with great pleasure I saw the rosy
colour return to the child's cheeks. The sadness of despair that
had shadowed the mother's face also fled, and I could see that
already she was looking on life with a more optimistic view.
I verily believe the child could have absorbed the entire
contents of the bottle, but I had impressed upon the mother that
she was to give the child only sufficient to sustain life, not to
suffice it until it was grown to manhood or womanhood, and when
the bottle was half-emptied the mother returned it to me. How
much time all this occupied I do not know, but the child took the
milk with extreme slowness. I may say that it took the milk drop
by drop. A great deal of time must have elapsed.
But when the mother had returned the patent nursing-bottle to
me and saw how impatient I was to be gone, she still retained her
hold upon my arm.
"Sir," she said, "you have undoubtedly saved the life of my
child, and I only regret that I cannot repay you for all it means
to me. But I cannot. Stay!" she cried, when I was about to pull
my arm away. "Has your wife auburn-red hair?"
"No," I said, "she has not. her hair is a most beautiful
"No matter," said the poor woman, putting her hand to her head.
"Some day she may wish to change the colour of her hair to
auburn-red, which is easily done with a little bleach and a
little dye, and should she do so these may come handy;" and with
that she slipped something soft and fluffy into my hand and fled
into the night. When I looked, I saw in my hand the very curls
you hold there. My first impulse was to drop them in the street,
but I remembered that the poor woman had not given them to me,
but to you, and that it was my duty to bring them home to you, so
I slipped them into my pocket.
When Mr. Billings had ended this recital of what had happened
to him his wife said:
At the same time she tossed the curls into the grate, where
they shrivelled up, burst into blue smoke, and shortly
disappeared in ashes.
"That is a very likely story," she said, "but it does not
explain how this came to be in your pocket."
Saying this she drew from her basket the handkerchief and
handed it to Mr. Billings.
"Hah!" he exclaimed. For a moment he turned the rolled-up
handkerchief over and over, and then he cautiously opened it. At
the sight of the twelve acorns he seemed somewhat surprised, and
when the initials "T. M. C." on the corner of the handkerchief
caught his eye he blushed.
"You are blushing--you are disturbed," said Mrs. Billings
"I am," said Mr. Billings, suddenly recovering himself; "and no
"And no wonder, indeed!" said Mrs Billings. "Perhaps, then, you
can tell me how those acorns and that handkerchief came to be in
"I can," said Mr. Billings, "and I will."
"You had better," said Mrs. Billings.
III. THE TWELVE ACORNS AND THE LADY'S HANDKERCHIEF
You may have noticed, my dear (said Mr. Billings), that the
initials on that handkerchief are "T. M. C.," and I wish you to
keep that in mind, for it has a great deal to do with this story.
Had they been anything else that handkerchief would not have
found its way into my pocket; and when you see how those acorns
and that handkerchief, and the half-filled nursing-bottle and the
auburn-red curls all combined to keep me out of my home until the
unearthly hour of three A. M., you will forget the unjust
suspicions which I too sadly fear you now hold against me, and
you will admit that a half-filled patent nursing-bottle, a trio
of curls, a lady's handkerchief and twelve acorns were the most
natural things in the world to find in my pockets.
When I had left the poor woman with her no-longer-starving baby
I hurriedly glanced into a store window, and by the clock there
saw it was twenty minutes of one and that I had exactly time to
catch the one o'clock train, which is the last train that runs to
Westcote. I glanced up and down the street, but not a car was in
sight, and I knew I could not afford to wait long if I wished to
catch that train. There was but one thing to do, and that was to
take a cab, and, as luck would have it, at that moment an
automobile cab came rapidly around the corner. I raised my voice
and my arm, and the driver saw or heard me, for he made a quick
turn in the street and drew up at the curb beside me. I hastily
gave him the directions, jumped in and slammed the door shut, and
the auto-cab immediately started forward at what seemed to me
We had not gone far when something in the fore part of the
automobile began to thump in a most alarming manner, and the
driver slackened his speed, drew up to the curb and stopped. He
opened the door and put his head in.
"Something's gone wrong," he said, "but don't you worry. I'll
have it fixed in no time, and then I can put on more speed and
I'll get you there in just the same time as if nothing had
When he said this I was perfectly satisfied, for he was a nice-
looking man, and I lay back, for I was quite tired out, it was so
long past my usual bedtime; and the driver went to work, doing
things I could not understand to the fore part of the automobile,
where the machinery is. I remember thinking that the cushions of
this automobile were unusually soft, and then I must have dozed
off, and when I opened my eyes I did not know how much time had
elapsed, but the driver was still at work and I could hear him
swearing. He seemed to be having a great deal of trouble, so I
got out of the automobile, intending to tell him that perhaps I
had better try to get a car, after all. But his actions when he
saw me were most unexpected. He waved the wrench he held in his
hand, and ordered me to get back into the automobile, and I did.
I supposed he was afraid he would lose his fare and tip, but in a
few minutes he opened the door again and spoke to me.
"Now, sport," he said, "there ain't no use thinkin' about
gettin' that train, because it's gone, and I may as well say now
that you've got to come with me, unless you want me to smash your
head in. The fact is, this ain't no public automobile, and I
hadn't no right to take you for a passenger. This automobile
belongs to a lady and I'm her hired chauffeur, and she's at a
bridge-whist party in a house on Fifth Avenue, and I'm supposed
to be waiting outside that house. One-fifteen o'clock was the
time she said she would be out. But I thought maybe I might make
a dollar or two for myself instead of waiting there all that
time, and she would never know it. And now it is nearly two
o'clock, and if I go back alone she will be raving mad, and I'll
get my discharge and no references, and my poor wife and six
children will have to starve. So you will have to go with me and
explain how it was that I wasn't there at one-fifteen o'clock."
"My friend," I said, "I am sorry for you, but I do not see how
it would help you, should I refuse to go and you should, as you
say, smash my head in."
"Don't you worry none about that," he said. "If I smashed your
head in, as I could do easy enough with this wrench, I'd take
what was left of you up some dark street, and lay you on the
pavement and run the machine across you once or twice, and then
take you to a hospital, and that would be excuse enough. You'd be
another 'Killed by an Automobile,' and I'd be the hero that
picked you up and took you to the hospital."
"Well," I said, "under the circumstances I shall go with you,
not because you threaten me, but because your poor wife and six
children are threatened with starvation."
"Good!" he said. "And now all you have to do is to think of
what the excuse you will give my lady boss will be."
With that he lay back against the cushions and waited. He
seemed to feel that the matter did not concern him any more, and
that the rest of it lay with me.
"Go ahead!" I said to him. "I have no idea what I shall tell
your mistress, but since I have lost the last train I must try to
catch the two o'clock trolley car to Westeote, and I do not wish
to spend any more time than necessary on this business. Make all
the haste possible, and as we go I shall think what I will say
when we get there."
The driver got out and took his seat and started the car. I was
worried, indeed, my dear. I tried to think of something plausible
to tell the young man's employer; something that would have an
air of self-proof, when suddenly I remembered the half-filled
nursing-bottle and the three auburn-red curls. Why should I not
tell the lady that a poor mother, while proceeding down Fifth
Avenue from her scrub-woman job, had been taken suddenly ill, and
that I, being near, had insisted that this automobile help me
convey the woman to her home, which we found, alas! to be in the
farthest districts of Brooklyn? Then I would produce the three
auburn-red curls and the half-filled nursing-bottle as having
been left in the automobile by the woman, and this proof would
I had fully decided on this when the automobile stopped in
front of a large house in Fifth Avenue, and I had time to tell
the driver that I had thought of the proper thing to say, but
that was all, for the waiting lady came down the steps in great
anger, and was about to begin a good scolding, when she noticed
me sitting in her automobile.
If she had been angry before she was now furious, and she was
the kind of young woman who can be extremely furious when she
tries. I think nothing in the world could have calmed her had she
not caught sight of my face by the light of two strong lamps on a
passing automobile. She saw in my face what you see there now, my
dear--the benevolent, fatherly face of a settled-down,
trustworthy, married man of past middle age--and as if by magic
her anger fled and she burst into tears.
"Oh, sir!" she cried, "I do not know who you are, nor how you
happen to be in my car, but at this moment I am homeless and
friendless. I am alone in the world, and I need advice. Let me
get into the car beside you--"
"Miss," I said, "I do not like to disoblige you, but I can
never allow myself to be in an automobile at this time of night
with a strange woman, unchaperoned."
These words seemed almost more than she could bear, and my
heart was full of pity, but, just as I was about to spring from
the automobile and rush away, I saw on the walk the poor woman to
whose baby I had given the half of the contents of the patent
nursing-bottle. I called her and made her get into the
automobile, and then I let the young woman enter.
"Now," I said, "where to?"
"That," she said, "is what I do not know. When I left my home
this evening I left it forever, and I left a note of farewell to
my father, which he must have received and read by this time, and
if I went back he would turn me from the door in anger, for he is
a gentleman of the old school."
When I heard these words I was startled. "Can it be," I asked,
"that you have a brother henry?"
"I have," she admitted; "Henry Corwin is his name." This was
the name of the young man I had helped that very evening to marry
Madge. I told her to proceed.
"My father," she said, "has been insisting that I marry a man I
do not love, and things have come to such a point that I must
either accede or take things into my own hands. I agreed to elope
this evening with the man I love, for he had long wished me to
elope with him. I was to meet him outside his house at exactly
one-fifteen o'clock, and I told him that if I was not there
promptly he might know I had changed my mind. When the time came
for me to hasten to him in my automobile, which was then to hurry
us to a waiting minister, my automobile was not here.
Unfortunately I did not know my lover's address, for I had left
it in the card pocket in this automobile. I knew not what to do.
As the time passed and my automobile did not appear I knew that
my lover had decided that I was not coming, and had gone away
into his house. Now I cannot go home, for I have no home. I
cannot so lower my pride as to ring the bell of his house and say
I wish to be forgiven and married even yet. What shall I do?"
For answer I felt in the card pocket of the automobile and drew
out the address of her lover, and without hesitation I gave the
address to the chauffeur. In a few minutes we were there. Leaving
the young woman in the car with the poor woman, I got out and
surveyed the house. It was unpromising. Evidently all the family
but the young man were away for the summer, and the doors and
windows were all boarded up. There was not a bell to ring. I
pounded on the boards that covered the door, but it was
unavailing. The young woman called to me that the young man lived
in the front room of the topmost floor, and could not hear me,
and I glanced up and saw that one window alone of all those in
the house was not boarded up. Instantly I hopped upon the seat
beside the driver and said, "Central Park."
We dashed up Fifth Avenue and into the Park at full speed, and
when we were what I considered far enough in I ordered him to
stop, and hurrying up a low bank I began to grope among the
leaves of last year under the trees. I was right. In a few
minutes I had filled my pockets with acorns, was back in the car,
and we were hurrying toward the house of the lover, when I saw
standing on a corner a figure I instantly recognized as Lemuel,
the elevator boy, and at the same time I remembered that Lemuel
spent his holidays pitching for a ball nine, He was just the man
I needed, and I stopped and made him get into the car. In a
minute more we were before the house again, and I handed Lemuel a
fistful of acorns. He drew back and threw them with all his
strength toward the upper window.
My dear, will you believe it? Those acorns were wormy! They
were light. They would not carry to the window, but scattered
like bits of chips when they had travelled but half-way. I was
upset, but Lemuel was not. He ordered the chauffeur to drive to
lower Sixth Avenue with all speed, in order that he might get a
baseball. With this he said he could hit any mark, and we had
started in that direction when, passing a restaurant on Broadway,
I saw emerge Henry and Madge.
"Better far," I said to myself, "put this young woman in charge
of her brother and his new wife than leave her to elope alone,"
and I made the chauffeur draw up beside them. Hastily I explained
the situation, and where we were going at that moment, and Henry
and Madge laughed in unison.
"Madge," said Henry, "we had no trouble making wormy acorns
travel through the air, had we?" And both laughed again. At this
I made them get into the automobile, and while we returned to the
lover's house I made them explain. It was very simple, and I had
just tied a dozen acorns tightly in my handkerchief, making a
ball to throw at the window, when the poor woman with the baby
noticed that the window was partly open. I asked Lemuel if he
could throw straight enough to throw the handkerchief-ball into
the window, and he said he could, and took the handkerchief, but
a brighter idea came to me, and I turned to the eloping young
"Let me have your handkerchief, if it has your initials on it,"
I said; "for when he sees that fall into his room he will know
you are here. He will not think you are forward, coming to him
alone, for he will know you could never have thrown the
handkerchief, even if loaded with acorns, to such a height. It
will be your message to him."
At this, which I do pride myself was a suggestion worthy of
myself, all were delighted, and while I modestly tied twelve
acorns in the handkerchief on which were the initials "T. M. C.,"
all the others cheered. Even the woman from whom I had received
the three auburn-red curls cheered, and the baby that was half-
filled out of the patent nursing-bottle crowed with joy. But the
chauffeur honked his honker. Lemuel took the handkerchief full of
acorns in his hand and drew back his famous left arm, when
suddenly Theodora Mitchell Corwin--for that was the eloping young
lady's name--shrieked, and looking up we saw her lover at the
window. He gave an answering yell and disappeared, and Lemuel let
his left arm fall and handed me the handkerchief-ball.
In the excitement I dropped it into my pocket, and it was not
until I was on the car for Westcote that I discovered it, and
then, not wishing to be any later in getting home, I did not go
back to give it to Theodora Mitchell Corwin; in fact, I did not
know where she had eloped to. Nor could I give it to Madge or
Henry, for they had gone on their wedding journey as soon as they
saw Theodora and her lover safely eloped.
I had no right to give it to the poor woman with the baby, even
if she had not immediately disappeared into her world of poverty,
and it certainly did not belong to Lemuel, nor could I have given
it to him, for he took the ten dollars the lover gave him and
stayed out so late that he was late to work this morning and was
discharged. He said he was going back to Texas. So I brought the
handkerchief and the twelve acorns home, knowing you would be
interested in hearing their story.
When Mr. Billings had thus finished his relation of the
happenings of his long evening, Mrs. Billings was thoughtful for
a minute. Then she said:
"But Rollin, when I spoke to you of the handkerchief and the
twelve acorns you blushed, and said you had reason to blush. I
see nothing in this kind action you did to cause a blush."
"I blushed," said Mr. Billings, "to think of the lie I was
going to tell Theodora Merrill Corwin--"
"I thought you said her name was Theodora Mitchell Corwin,"
said Mrs. Billings.
"Mitchell or Merill," said Mr. Billings. "I cannot remember
For several minutes Mrs. Billings was silent. Occasionally she
would open her mouth as if to ask a question, but each time she
closed it again without speaking. Mr. Billings sat regarding his
wife with what, in a man of less clear conscience, might be
called anxiety. At length Mrs. Billings put her sewing into her
sewing-basket and arose.
"Rollin," she said, "I have enjoyed hearing you tell your
experiences greatly. I can say but one thing: Never in your life
have you deceived me. And you have not deceived me now."
For half an hour after this Mr. Billings sat alone, thinking.
OUR FIRST BURGLAR
When our new suburban house was completed I took Sarah out to
see it, and she liked it all but the stairs.
"Edgar," she said, when she had ascended to the second floor,
"I don't know whether it is imagination or not, but it seems to
me that these stairs are funny, some way. I can't understand it.
They are not a long flight, and they are not unusually steep, but
they seem to be unusually wearying. I never knew a short flight
to tire me so, and I have climbed many flights in the six years
we have lived in flats."
"Perhaps, Sarah," I said, with mild dissimulation, "you are
unusually tired to-day."
The fact was that I had planned those stairs myself, and for a
particular reason I had made the rise of each step three inches
more than the customary height, and in this way I had saved two
steps. I had also made the tread of the steps unusually narrow;
and the reason was that I had found, from long experience, that
stair carpet wears first on the tread of the steps, where the
foot falls. By making the steps tall enough to save two, and by
making the tread narrow, I reduced the wear on the carpet to a
minimum. I believe in economy where it is possible. For the same
reason I had the stair banisters made wide, with a saddle-like
top to the newel post, to tempt my son and daughter to slide
downstairs. The less they used the stairs the longer the carpet
I need hardly say that Sarah has a fear of burglars; most women
have. As for myself, I prefer not to meet a burglar. It is all
very well to get up in the night and prowl about with a pistol in
one hand, seeking to eliminate the life of a burglar, and some
men may like it; but I am of a very excitable nature, and I am
sure that if I did find a burglar and succeeded in shooting him,
I should be in such an excited state that I could not sleep again
that night--and no man can afford to lose his night's rest.
There are other objections to shooting a burglar in the house,
and these objections apply with double force when the house and
its furnishings are entirely new. Although some of the rugs in
our house were red, not all of them were; and I had no guarantee
that if I shot a burglar he would lie down on a red rug to bleed
to death. A burglar does not consider one's feelings, and would
be quite as apt to bleed on a green rug, and spoil it, as not.
Until burglarizing is properly regulated and burglars are
educated, as they should be, in technical burglary schools, we
cannot hope that a shot burglar will staunch his wound until he
can find a red rug to lie down on.
And there are still other objections to shooting a burglar. If
all burglars were fat, one of these would be removed; but perhaps
a thin burglar might get in front of my revolver, and in that
case the bullet would be likely to go right through him and
continue on its way, and perhaps break a mirror or a cut-glass
dish. I am a thin man myself, and if a burglar shot at me he
might damage things in the same way.
I thought all these things over when we decided to build in the
suburbs, for Sarah is very nervous about burglars, and makes me
get up at the slightest noise and go poking about. Only the fact
that no burglar had ever entered our flat at night had prevented
what might have been a serious accident to a burglar, for I made
it a rule, when Sarah wakened me on such occasions, to waste no
time, but to go through the rooms as hastily as possible and get
back to bed; and at the speed I travelled I might have bumped
into a burglar in the dark and knocked him over, and his head
might have struck some hard object, causing concussion of the
brain; and as a burglar has a small brain a small amount of
concussion might have ruined it entirely. But as I am a slight
man it might have been my brain that got concussed. A father of a
family has to think of these things.
The nervousness of Sarah regarding burglars had led me in this
way to study the subject carefully, and my adoption of jet-black
pajamas as nightwear was not due to cowardice on my part. I
properly reasoned that if a burglar tried to shoot me while I was
rushing around the house after him in the darkness, a suit of
black pajamas would somewhat spoil his aim, and, not being able
to see me, he would not shoot at all. In this way I should save
Sarah the nerve shock that would follow the explosion of a pistol
in the house. For Sarah was very much more afraid of pistols than
of burglars. I am sure there were only two reasons why I had
never killed a burglar with a pistol: one was that no burglar had
ever entered our flat, and the other was that I never had a
But I knew that one is much less protected in a suburb than in
town, and when I decided to build I studied the burglar
protection matter most carefully. I said nothing to Sarah about
it, for fear it would upset her nerves, but for months I
considered every method that seemed to have any merit, and that
would avoid getting a burglar's blood--or mine--spattered around
on our new furnishings. I desired some method by which I could
finish up a burglar properly without having to leave my bed, for
although Sarah is brave enough in sending me out of bed to catch
a burglar, I knew she must suffer severe nerve strain during the
time I was wandering about in the dark. Her objection to
explosives had also to be considered, and I really had to
exercise my brain more than common before I hit upon what I may
now consider the only perfect method of handling burglars.
Several things coincided to suggest my method. One of these was
Sarah's foolish notion that our silver must, every night, be
brought from the dining-room and deposited under our bed. This I
considered a most foolhardy tempting of fate. It coaxed any
burglar who ordinarily would have quietly taken the silver from
the dining-room and have then gone away peacefully, to enter our
room. The knowledge that I lay in bed ready at any time to spring
out upon him would make him prepare his revolver, and his
nervousness might make him shoot me, which would quite upset
Sarah's nerves. I told Sarah so, but she had a hereditary
instinct for bringing the silver to the bedroom, and insisted. I
saw that in the suburban house this, would be continued as
"bringing the silver upstairs," and a trial of my carpet-saving
stairs suggested to me my burglar-defeating plan. I had the
apparatus built into the house, and I had the house planned to
agree with the apparatus.
For several months after we moved into the house I had no
burglars, but I felt no fear of them in any event. I was prepared
In order not to make Sarah nervous, I explained to her that my
invention of a silver-elevator was merely a time-saving device.
From the top of the dining-room sideboard I ran upright tracks
through the ceiling to the back of the hall above, and in these I
placed a glass case, which could be run up and down the tracks
like a dumbwaiter. All our servant had to do when she had washed
the silver was to put it in the glass case, and I had attached to
the top of the case a stout steel cable which ran to the ceiling
of the hall above, over a pulley, and so to our bedroom, which
was at the front of the hall upstairs. By this means I could,
when I was in bed, pull the cable, and the glass case of silver
would rise to the second floor. Our bedroom door opened upon the
hall, and from the bed I could see the glass case; but in order
that I might be sure that the silver was there I put a small
electric light in the case and kept it burning all night. Sarah
was delighted with this arrangement, for in the morning all I had
to do was to pay out the steel cable and the silver would descend
to the dining-room, and the maid could have the table all set by
the time breakfast was ready. Not once did Sarah have a suspicion
that all this was not merely a household economy, but my burglar
On the sixth of August, at two o'clock in the morning, Sarah
awakened me, and I immediately sat straight up in bed. There was
an undoubtable noise of sawing, and I knew at once that a burglar
was entering our home. Sarah was trembling, and I knew she was
getting nervous, but I ordered her to remain calm.
"Sarah," I said, in a whisper, "be calm! There is not the least
danger. I have been expecting this for some time, and I only hope
the burglar has no dependent family or poor old mother to
support. Whatever happens, be calm and keep perfectly quiet."
With that I released the steel cable from the head of my bed
and let the glass case full of silver slide noiselessly to the
"Edgar!" whispered Sarah in agonized tones, "are you giving him
"Sarah!" I whispered sternly, "remember what I have just said.
Be calm and keep perfectly quiet." And I would say no more.
In a very short time I heard the window below us open softly,
and I knew the burglar was entering the parlour from the side
porch. I counted twenty, which I had figured would be the time
required for him to reach the dining-room, and then, when I was
sure he must have seen the silver shining in the glass case, I
slowly pulled on the steel cable and raised case and silver to
the hall above. Sarah began to whisper to me, but I silenced her.
What I had expected happened. The burglar, seeing the silver
rise through the ceiling, left the dining-room and went into the
hall. There, from the foot of the stairs, he could see the case
glowing in the hall above, and without hesitation he mounted the
stairs. As he reached the top I had a good view of him, for he
was silhouetted against the light that glowed from the silver
case. He was a most brutal looking fellow of the prize-fighting
type, but I almost laughed aloud when I saw his build. He was
short and chunky. As he stepped forward to grasp the silver case,
I let the steel cable run through my fingers, and the case and
its precious contents slid noiselessly down to the dining-room.
For only one instant the burglar seemed disconcerted, then he
turned and ran downstairs again.
This time I did not wait so long to draw up the silver. I
hardly gave him time to reach the dining-room door before I
jerked the cable, and the case was glowing in the upper hall. The
burglar immediately stopped, turned, and mounted the stairs, but
just as he reached the top I let the silver slide down again, and
he had to turn and descend. Hardly had he reached the bottom step
before I had the silver once more in the upper hall.
The burglar was a gritty fellow and was not to be so easily
defeated. With some word which I could not catch, but which I
have no doubt was profane, or at least vulgar, he dashed up the
stairs, and just as his hand touched the case I let the silver
drop to the dining-room. I smiled as I saw his next move. He
carefully removed his coat and vest, rolled up his sleeves, and
took off his collar. This evidently meant that he intended to get
the silver if it took the whole night, and nothing could have
pleased me more. I lay in my comfortable bed fairly shaking with
suppressed laughter, and had to stuff a corner of a pillow in my
mouth to smother the sound of my mirth. I did not allow the least
pity for the unfortunate fellow to weaken my nerve.
A low, long screech from the hall told me that I had a man of
uncommon brain to contend with, for I knew the sound came from
his hands drawing along the banister, and that to husband his
strength and to save time, he was sliding down. But this did not
disconcert me. It pleased me. The quicker he went down, the
oftener he would have to walk up.
For half an hour I played with him, giving him just time to get
down to the foot of the stairs before I raised the silver, and
just time to reach the top before I lowered it, and then I grew
tired of the sport--for it was nothing else to me--and decided to
finish him off. I was getting sleepy, but it was evident that the
burglar was not, and I was a little afraid I might fall asleep
and thus defeat myself. The burglar had that advantage because he
was used to night work. So I quickened my movements a little.
When the burglar slid down I gave him just time to see the silver
rise through the ceiling, and when he climbed the stairs I only
allowed him to see it descend through the floor. In this way I
made him double his pace, and as I quickened my movements I soon
had him dashing up the stairs and sliding down again as if for a
wager. I did not give him a moment for rest, and he was soon
panting terribly and beginning to stumble; but with almost
superhuman nerve he kept up the chase. He was an unusually tough
But quick as he was I was always quicker, and a glimpse of the
glowing case was all I let him have at either end of his climb or
slide. No sooner was he down than it was up, and no sooner was
the case up than he was up after it. In this way I kept
increasing his speed until it was something terrific, and the
whole house shook, like an automobile with a very powerful motor.
But still his speed increased. I saw then that I had brought him
to the place I had prepared for, where he had but one object in
life, and that was to beat the case up or down stairs; and as I
was now so sleepy I could hardly keep my eyes open, I did what I
had intended to do from the first. I lowered the case until it
was exactly between the ceiling of the dining-room and the floor
of the hall above--and turned out the electric light. I then tied
the steel cable securely to the head of my bed, turned over, and
went to sleep, lulled by the shaking of the house as the burglar
dashed up and down the stairs.
Just how long this continued I do not know, for my sleep was
deep and dreamless, but I should judge that the burglar ran
himself to death sometime between half-past three and a quarter
after four. So great had been his efforts that when I went to
remove him I did not recognize him at all. When I had seen him
last in the glow of the glass silver case he had been a stout,
chunky fellow, and now his remains were those of an emaciated
man. He must have run off one hundred and twenty pounds of flesh
before he gave out.
Only one thing clouded my triumph. Our silver consisted of but
half a dozen each of knives, forks, and spoons, a butter knife,
and a sugar spoon, all plated, and worth probably five dollars,
and to save this I had made the burglar wear to rags a Wilton
stair carpet worth twenty-nine dollars. But I have now corrected
this. I have bought fifty dollars worth of silver.